Pluto may be a dwarf planet – but we think it deserves to be celebrated!

Pluto Day

On February 18, 1930 a new planet was discovered. At least at the time the way planets were classified Pluto was a planet! Clyde Tombaugh, an American astronomer, discovered Pluto and as a result, a whole generation of children learned there were 9 planets in the solar system!

In an extremely controversial decision in 2006, the International Astronomical Union reclassified Pluto to a dwarf planet. This reduces the number of planets in our solar system to eight. 

February 18th is still celebrated by Pluto as a Planet lovers all over!

The definition of Planet

The International Astronomical Union provides us with a definition of planet as: a body that circles the sun but is not in another objects satellite; is large enough to be rounded by its own gravity (but cannot be so big that is undergoes nuclear fusion, like a star); and has “cleared its neighborhood” of most other orbiting bodies.

Pluto was reclassified not only because of its small size, but because it doesn’t “clean its neighborhood”. Pluto shares space with other things in the Kuiper Belt. (The Kuiper belt is an area at the edge of our solar system filled with icy bodies.)

When Pluto was named, credit is given to two very different benefactors. The first is the Roman God of death and the underworld: Pluto. Another nod is given to Percival Lowell. He is the astronomer that started the search beyond Neptune that lead to finding Pluto. PL, his initials are the first two letters of PLuto.

How to Celebrate Pluto Day

There are several things you can do to celebrate Pluto Day:

Study the 8 (or 9) planets! Create models or diagrams!

Study Mythology and the Gods associated with the planet names.

Visit a planetarium

Put more research into the difference between a planet and a dwarf planet – go ahead and diagram the Solar System , just include the dwarf planets way out yonder!

If you would like a *classic* resource to springboard your planetary studies, grab the Homeschool Holiday Lapbook for the Magic School Bus: Lost in Space.

This resource does complement the 1994 version of the Magic School Bus. You can create a lapbook using just 8 planets, or include Pluto for a 9 planet project! The video (if you chose to show it) was created before Pluto’s reclassification, and therefore the students in Mrs. Frizzles class visit! We think that’s worthy of CELEBRATION!

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