Sly as a fox, it is. Mysterious and diminutive, it has eluded us for decades. Despite what we’ve learned about Pluto, constant debate continues to rage over its classification. From the moment it was discovered, astronomers have bickered over this icy body and its place in our solar system. Was it Planet X? Is it a planet at all? Did it really ‘have it coming‘? We’ve all longed to know more about this categorization-resistant body which has stirred up so much controversy in news and astronomy circles alike. How did we get so riled up about an icy rock so far distant? To understand that, we must start at the beginning.
Before there was Pluto, there was Planet X.
Allow me to set the scene for you: It is the mid-1800s in Europe and North America. People are migrating to cities en masse, lured by the economics of the Industrial Revolution. As the number of mechanical monstrosities increase, so too does the pace of scientific discovery. Charles Darwin has just published The Origin of Species (original full title and certified mouthful: “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life“) which inflames the science-vs-religion debate. The planet Neptune is discovered. This, coupled with Uranus’ prior discovery in the late 1700s raises the possibility that more, undiscovered worlds exist in our solar system.