Planet X

from Shining My Flashlight on the Moon

In Arizona at the turn of this century
astromathematician Percival Lowell
was searching for what he called "Planet X"
because he knew deep in his soul
that an unseen gravitational presence
meant a new planet spinning in the air
joining the other eight already known
circling our sun up there

Percival Lowell died in 1916
his theory still only a theory
'til 1930, American Clyde Tombaugh
in his scientific query
discovered Planet X, 3 point 7
billion miles from the sun
a smallish ball of frozen rock,
methane and nitrogen

It joined Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars, Jupiter
Saturn, Uranus and Neptune
our solar system's newest neighbor
two-thirds the size of our moon
a tiny, barely visible speck
cold!  minus 440 below
not exactly Paradise
they named the planet Pluto

That same year, 1930, Walt Disney
debuted his own Pluto as well
but a cartoon dog with the very same name
as the CEO of Hell
was not the normal Disney style
most thought he was riding the coattails
of Pluto-mania sweeping the land
(not unlike our love for whales)

For the next five decades mysterious Pluto
captivated our minds
as late as 1978 its own moon Charon
was seen for the very first time
but telescopes and satellites
and computer calculations
now say Pluto may not be a planet at all
causing great consternation

(Some scientists say). . .
It's a "trans-Neptunian interloper"
swept away by an unknown force
or a remnant of a wayward comet
somehow sucked off course
others say it's an asteroid
in the sun's gravitational pull
but if you ask Clyde Tombaugh
he'll tell you it's all "bull"

"I get hundreds of letters from kids every year,"
he says, "It's Pluto the planet they love
not Pluto the comet or Pluto the asteroid
they wonder about above"
The International Astronomical Union's Working Group
For Planetary System Nomenclature
agrees that Pluto's a planet
reinforcing Tombaugh's view of Nature

Norwegian Kaare Aksnes, professor at the
Theoretical Astrophysics Institute
says Pluto is still a planet
and an important one, to boot
but at the University of Colorado
astronomer Larry Esposito
says if Pluto were discovered today
it would not be a planet.  End of discussion.  Finito

He says it was not spun off from solar matter
like the other eight planets we know
by every scientific measure we have
is it a planet?  No!
and now twenty astronomy textbooks
refer to Pluto as less than a planet
I guess if Pluto showed up at a planet convention
the bouncer at the door might ban it

It takes 247 earth years
for Pluto to circle the sun
it's tiny and it's cold but of all heavenly bodies
it's Clyde Tombaugh's favorite one
he's 90 now and works every day
in Las Cruces, New Mexico
determined to maintain the planetary status
of his beloved Pluto

But how are we going to deal with it
if science comes up the proof
that Pluto was never a planet
how do we handle this truth?
as the Ph.D.'s all disagree
we don't know yet who's wrong or right
but wherever you are, whatever you are
Pluto, we know you're out there tonight

And in 2003 you're going to see
the NASA Pluto Express
fly by and take pictures of your cool surface
to send to your web page address:
h t t p colon slash slash d o s x x dot
colorado dot edu slash
plutohome dot html
your own web page?
you've made quite a splash

Though now St. Christopher is looking down
says, "Pluto, I can relate
when I was demoted from sainthood
it didn't feel too great"
and Scorpios look up in dismay
Pluto the planet rules their sign
is reading their daily Horoscope
now a futile waste of time?

At the turn of this century
astromathematician Percival Lowell
in his quest for "Planet X"
started this ball to roll
at the end of the 20th Century
we think he may have been way off base
now we look at the sky
and wonder what new surprises
await us in outer space



The above are the original lyrix written in 1996.  See the lyrics from the album I DON'T MAKE THIS STUFF UP . . . I JUST MAKE IT RHYME for the updated lyrix.

© Christine Lavin CL2 ASCAP

updated 5 years ago