It’s hard to believe it has been a decade already since Mike Brown and his Caltech team discovered the dwarf planet Eris and inadvertently kicked off the brouhaha that eventually resulted in Pluto being “demoted” from its status as our solar system’s ninth planet. Brown and company discovered Eris on January 5, 2005, from images shot in October 2003.
Some years later we read three books about the demotion of Pluto: Brown’s How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming; Neil deGrasse Tyson’s The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet; and The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference by Alan Boyle, science editor for NBCNews.com and author of Cosmic Log.
All three books are great reads; I reviewed them in 2011 and noted that the authors voted 2-1 in favor of Pluto’s demotion as a planet. Boyle cast the lone dissenting vote. Brown’s book was especially interesting for its inside story of how the discovery came about, and how the search for Trans-Neptunian Objects changed his life. It may well be worth a re-read this month on the ten-year anniversary of the discovery.