Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Nachos and nectarines, Proserpina and pomegranates

CharonGail Heriot provides a fine postscript to Jurisdynamics' sadly premature post on the scientific fate of Pluto. Now that Pluto has been demoted to the status of a dwarf planet, the old mnemonic is readily (if regrettably) recast:
My very educated mother just served us nachos.
Or nectarines, for a healthier alternative. Either way, the matter is closed. Future generations of schoolchildren have it easier, even if they lose a little sense of adventure in the exchange.

Let's move swiftly from vegans to pagans. As long as we're playing games with the definition of the solar system, I have a grievance with the International Astronomical Union. Why is Pluto's primary moon named Charon? It really should be Proserpina. Are these folks utterly devoid of romance? In Roman myth, Pluto had a wife. She ate four pomegranate seeds among twelve; he got her for four months of the year. Deal. Ceres over.

Pluto and ProserpinaOkay, so there's a main belt asteroid named 399 Persephone and another named 26 Proserpina. These astronomical names seemed locked in some sort of Greco-Roman wrestling hold. Maybe that's why we have an asteroid named 1108 Demeter as well as the dwarf planet 1 Ceres. In all events, it's not as if this is a domain name conflict. Proserpina can lend her name to a main belt asteroid and to a trans-Neptunian object.

To be sure, the mythological Charon is a perfectly good namesake for an object in the dark, cold frontiers of the solar system. Still, in the name of connubial (if not planetary) bliss, doesn't Pluto deserve to be paired with Proserpina?


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