Thursday, 5 November 2015

Pluto and Venetia Burney ...

Stephen Tremp was over at my blog on Monday … and I thought I’d post something ‘heavenly and historical’ to tie in with his interest in space and the planets …

Pluto and the moon

Some fun facts about Pluto the down-sized dwarf planet we know today …

What to call it?    The discovery in 1930 had made headlines around the world … with the Lowell Observatory in Arizona receiving over a thousand suggestions.

Venetia Burney, aged 11 in 1929
(1918 - 2009)

Venetia Burney, an eleven year old schoolgirl in Oxford, who was interested in classical mythology, had heard the story about the discovery from her grandfather, Falconer Madan, who was the Librarian at the Bodleian … and suggested the name Pluto.

Showing range of planets around the Sun

Pluto was the Roman God of the Underworld, who was able to make himself invisible, as the planet had done for over 80 years … it was ‘hidden’ behind Neptune.

Falconer then relayed the suggestion to the Oxford astronomer, Herbert Hall Turner, who cabled his American colleagues at the Observatory.

Percival Lowell (1855 - 1916)

“Planet X” became Pluto … the first two letters “P and L” were another clincher:   for Percival Lowell, who was instrumental in finding the illusive planet.

Her grandfather was a good grandpa … he gave Venetia a reward of £5 (equivalent to GBP 300, or USD 450 today).

The name was soon embraced by the wider culture including Walt Disney who called Mickey Mouse’s canine companion Pluto.

New Horizons Flyby: Launched in January 2006
Jupiter System flyby February 2007
Pluto System flyby July 2015
going on into the Kuiper Belt and beyond 2016 - 2020

The new element Plutonium was so named after Pluto …  in keeping with the tradition of naming elements after newly discovered planets, following uranium, which was named after Uranus, and neptunium, which was named after Neptune.

USA postage stamp issued 2015

It’s always fascinating finding out these connections … but I love the idea of an 11 year old girl in England, Venetia, suggesting Pluto’s name … and how Disney was inspired to name Mickey Mouse’s side-kick Pluto.

Just a pity it’s no longer a full Planet but a dwarf one … Pluto is really tiny – smaller than our moon, which was confirmed by the New Horizons interplanetary space probe traversing our universe, which made a fly-by of Pluto the dwarf planet.

Stephen's blog's Breakthrough photo
It’s good to tie in with Stephen and his launch of Salem's Daughters, as one of his other major interests is science, and to post something relevant to today’s New Horizons mission into space and that tiny ex planet Pluto!

More information on Venetia Burney can be found here – she studied Mathematics at Newnham College, Cambridge … though practised accountancy before moving across to teaching.

It's Guy Fawkes day here ... and we will be full of fireworks ... I'm in London, so will see numerous eruptions of coloured fire as I travel home on the train.  

If you want to read about the "Guy Fawkes" ... just type his name into the search bar at the top - but you might need to hit 'got it' first on the dreaded grey bar that appears at the top of blogger now - that will make the grey bar disappear .. and then a few different posts will appear.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Patsy said...

I didn't know how Pluto got its name - interesting story and how exciting for that little girl.

I'm celebrating bonfire night in my own way today!

Elephant's Child said...

Thank you.
What a fascinating story.
We used to celebrate (sort of) Guy Fawkes night over here. We called it cracker night. A big bonfire, sometimes with a guy and lots and lots of fireworks.
Political correctness has killed it now. No private fireworks, and the public ones are more limited.

Rhodesia said...

Love this post and just how interesting it is. Pluto, both dog and planet, have always seemed to have been there so this was very enlightening.

As for the 'Got it' it is a real pain and drives me nuts!!!!

Have a good weekend Diane.

Gattina said...

A real interesting post ! I didn't know all that, I only knew the planet and the dog of course but I didn't know that behind this name was a little 11 year old girl !

Now I will check what "Guy Fawkes" means

Out on the prairie said...

The fellows ashes who discovered it went into the probe, so he went past his planet.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I bet that was a real thrill for that young lady when they took her suggestion.
After all they've discovered this year, it really should be upgraded again to a planet. Scientists would have to admit they were wrong in downgrading it though, and that's not likely to happen.

Jo said...

Fascinating that she came up with the name Pluto. I had no idea the name had spawned so many others either.

We get lots of fireworks here, but not tonight of course. We used to have such fun on Guy Fawkes day with big bonfires and fireworks. Potatoes baked in the fire coming out raw on one side and burned on the other. Sigh.

H.R. Sinclair said...

Cool beans on Pluto!

That should be a lovely ride home, and so pretty.

Have you considered putting a search in the sidebar?

Karen Walker said...

I had no idea how Pluto got it's name. Interesting about the Roman God. Clever.

Joanne said...

I like the story and tie-ins, and I think Pluto should be a planet. Bad for the self-esteem to have been kicked down a notch. Enjoy the celebrations today. Take care

Inger said...

What an interesting post, Hilary. I didn't even know they named elements after planets, much less Disney's Pluto. I did know about Pluto the god of the underworld, but that's about it. I also remeber Guy Fawkes Day from when I lived in London. Back then I think there were bonfires all over town, but I don't remember any fireworks.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

And here I thought the planet was named after Disney's Pluto. Haha. Very interesting, Hilary. I had no idea. To think they spotted that long ago. Amazing.

Jeffrey Scott said...

It's also a good day to watch the film, "V for Vendetta".
I LOVE astronomical posts.
Ironically enough November 5th is the day I celebrate the film 'Back to the Future'. Which is the day a character in the film 'invented' time travel.

beste barki said...

All this is very interesting indeed. The universe has always interested me Hilary, yet, it is only lately have I been able to fully visualise our solar system as it should be known, with all the moons of the various planets and the Kuifer Belt and the asteroids, etc.

Suzanne Furness said...

Interesting story about how Pluto got its name. Just got back from some fireworks on the beach here.

Fil said...

Great story Hilary - I never knew how planets got their names. I'm sure she proudly carried that with her all her life.
Space is so fascinating at the minute - I have an avid space fan in the house here who dragged me to see The Martian the other day :)
Have a great weekend
Fil’s Place - Old songs and Memories

Marja said...

How much fun to hear how Pluto got it's name. I worked with a little boy years ago who was mad about the planets. I am still in touch with him and I think he still will love this information

ana said...

That's so interesting how Pluto got its name... Thank you Hilary love your readings.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Patsy – it’s a fun snippet … and probably using FireStarter didn’t matter it was raining! Good Luck with the new book.

@ EC – glad you enjoyed it … yes health and safety and all seemed to happen here too. Pity as it’s a good way being out and about with friends and sharing a frosty night around a bonfire.

@ Diane – thanks .. simple information, but fun to hear about.
Yes – the ‘Got It’ is a big grey turn off …

@ Gattina – that’s good … something extra for brain food! Hope you enjoyed the Guy Fawkes info too …

@ Steve – that’s probably true too … they are taking lots of bits and bobs into space aren’t they …

@ Alex – I’m sure it was … she became a teacher towards the end of her career and I expect told the story occasionally. I did wonder about the dwarf or full planet ... but my story line remained – perhaps the scientists will revise – once all the data is back.

@ Jo – it was just such a fun story to hear about – glad you thought so.

Those early days of our youth … round the bonfire, baking potatoes in the embers, sitting around with a hot mug of something … chocolate perhaps etc and then watching the fireworks being set off. I looked forward to Bonfire Night for many a year as a kid, and now too!

@ Holly – yes cool beans on Pluto! Good comment. Re coming home in the end it was raining, and they’d had two emergencies … on each arm of my route … so I got home over an hour later than intended. I saw one massive bonfire – massive! – and a pile of fireworks as the train went past … that was fun.

Holly – I’m so not good with the techie stuff .. but I’ve noted your thought – thanks.

@ Karen – these snippets were fun to find out about and so fascinating how they all came together.

@ Joanne – thanks .. yes I bet Pluto is feeling a little put out – maybe he’ll go hide again?! It was raining .. so a dampened evening as I rode home: but the next couple of nights will be fun.

@ Inger – I didn’t know any of this either and just thought everyone would be interested in it as a post. Pluto and the underworld … but how his name came to be for the hidden planet just makes so much sense.

Guy Fawkes still is around … and when you were here they were mostly private bonfires at home or small local ‘dos’ … now they are commercial events – for health and safety reasons: so we see lots bursting through and braiding the landscape We occasionally have fireworks at my brother’s house … but usually without the bonfire – which we have on other occasions!

@ Joylene – just to keep you on your toes! Yes Pluto – the planet, or dwarf planet – kept everyone guessing for over 80 years … clever little planet!

@ Jeffrey – is it a good day for film watching … after my journey home I think that’s what I should have done!

I’m happy you enjoy this sort of post … and we both picked a good day to celebrate ‘Back to the Future’ in one way or another …

@ Beste – the stars and interplanetary systems are fascinating to know about … but I’m glad someone is around to help me understand! This was a good learning post for me to write up.

@ Suzanne – I so enjoyed hearing this info … and being able to relay it here. Your beach fireworks sound just lovely – one day I’d like to do something like that – they do have fireworks on the front here … and I might walk down to watch.

@ Fil – I hadn’t realised the ‘elements’ naming either, so I learnt lots by writing this up. Venetia was one bright lady and I’m sure brought out the story occasionally …

Ah – an avid space fan in the house … well a little light relief via the film The Martian can’t have done any harm?!

@ Marja – I’m glad you enjoyed it .. and I wonder if your ‘grown-up now’ boy knows this story …

@ Ana – I’m happy you enjoyed reading about the Plutos …

Cheers to you all … we went past one amazing bonfire – it was enormous and full of flame! Then a firework display bursting forth with lots of coloured spurts and sparkles … fun to see. Hilary

mail4rosey said...

How wonderful that a child named the planet! I had no idea, but I like it. And the reasoning behind the choice is solid. Love too that the PL fit right in there. That's fun info. to learn. :)

Susan Scott said...

Thanks Hilary that is really interesting not only about the 11 yr old lass but also a reminder about the underworld. Thankfully we didn't hear explosions last night...there were zillions of pleas put out to spare cats and dogs, perhaps babies too. Have a wonderful weekend! :)

Manzanita said...

I've always felt a closeness to Pluto, mainly because it was discovered the year I was born
and then it was given status of representing Pisces (also the sign I was born under). But then
they dwarfed it to just about nothingness and that was a blow to me. Thanks for writing about
it. I used to communicate with Stephen and it's good to hear about him again. Blogging is
ups and downs of communication but we never really lose permanent touch.
Sounds like you enjoyed your Guy Fawkes Day

Christine Rains said...

What a neat story about how Pluto got its name. And what a wonderful grandpa! Have a lovely weekend. :) said...

Hi Hilary, I love your 'new look' blogsite. Wonderful! As always your posts are informative and well illustrated. I didn't know about plutonium being named after pluto or that this is common practice. I guess that is why Kryptonite was named after Krypton! Lovely to be back, blogging. x

bazza said...

Hello Hilary. I think there lots other dwarf planets out there and it would be unfair on them to keep Pluto as a planet. Lots of interesting facts crammed into a short (for you!) post. Always good reading; it's what Blogging is about as far as I'm concerned.
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s fabulous Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Silvia Writes said...

I too love the idea of a young girl from England, with an Italian name, suggesting the name of the planet, and how the first two letters worked so well into the naming requirements. Too bad it was discovered the once planet is just outside the belt, so it was demoted.
I love anything space related. So much to learn. Thank you for sharing, Hilary. A most enjoyable read.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Lots of interesting facts about Pluto, mostly stuff I didn't know. Thanks! Poor Pluto. Seems such a shame to have downgraded it...

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Rosey - it's a fun snippet isn't it. The choice had to be approved by the scientists and professors at the Lowell Observatory - so she passed that mark too. Glad you enjoyed the post ...

@ Susan - I know the 11 year old thinking laterally and when we look behind the name we are reminded about other knowledge facts ... it puts a different spin on naming objects etc. We have mostly large public displays ... and the animals and birds do get disturbed by it all. It's been raining rather soggily here and will continue on today - that's dampening things here.

@ Manzanita - that's a very good reason to feel close to Pluto! and then the Pisces connection. I know downgrading Pluto was a shock to many. Stephen is still around .. but working hard with the book and a new job. Guy Fawkes is always fun ... even if I just see a few fireworks in the distance.

@ Christine - it's fun isn't it .. and then her Grandfather - those are special ones!!

@ Madeleine - thanks re the new look and the blog content with the photos. I didn't know about the element naming aspect either ... and you bring in another interesting fact about Superman's Kryptonite ... named after the gas Krypton (a chemical element).

@ Bazza - I'm sure there are lots of dwarf planets out there and yes, of course, we must bring Pluto back into line with them as a dwarf too. The moon is very small compared to so much in the Universe - so if Pluto is smaller than our moon - then so be it. I know - I'm attempting to do short now! Glad you enjoyed the post - thanks so much ...

@ Silvia - yes the Italian connection too - hadn't thought of that! She was obviously some bright young lady - who fulfilled her promise in later life.

It's just so fascinating how much is being discovered today and we can learn more about the universe ... it's so interesting, even if the science is so challenging! Very happy to read you enjoyed the post -thanks.

@ Susan - Poor Pluto - still we might remember more about the planet though ... but as Bazza says if Pluto needs to join his other dwarf mate-planets then he's in good company. It has a name! and a favourite Disney character is named after it.

Cheers everyone so glad you enjoyed the post .. have a good weekend - Hilary

Lynn said...

I had no idea that's how Pluto got its name! So interesting - thanks for sharing that. Hope you enjoyed seeing the bonfires, etc. I was just reading another post about that.

Deborah Weber said...

Oh I love the scoop about Pluto - how fun. And I also delight in the idea of seeing the Guy Fawkes celebrations while traveling via train. Hope you had a fabulous display.

Mark Koopmans said...

Hi Hilary:)

Wow!! Your posts are always full of *interesting* information, and I especially loved this one!!

How neat that an 11-year-old English girl had the honor of naming Pluto:)

Hope you made it home safely without too many bonfires getting in the way :)

PS: Thanks so much for stopping by this week - I really appreciate your support!! :)

T. Powell Coltrin said...

So interesting. I learn on your site more than any other!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Lynn - nor had I, so when I heard I thought a few people would like to read about it. Yes - the bonfires have been quite good ... but it's rather wet for many.

@ Deborah - isn't a fun set of facts ... I was so late back on the train due to emergencies on the lines - but then had the wonderful drive through! It was brief but sparkling.

@ Mark - thanks so much ... and yes that 11 year old naming the planet was such a unique event ... I had to write about it.

Yes - made it home .. but the Lewes bonfire we went past was pretty full on ... but a good memory after a long drawn out train ride home ..

Glad I could help with Donald ... and his story

@ Teresa - thanks so much ... I enjoy providing interesting info - stimulates me too ..

Thanks so much to you four .. good to see you .. cheers Hilary

Theresa Milstein said...

Nice to know more about Pluto. I like the story about the 11-year-old girl especially. Poor Pluto. I know there's controversy surrounding the demotion. I hope it returns to planet status.

My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pickles will alway stick with me.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Theresa - poor Pluto indeed ... at least he has a backstory to his name!! I wonder what will happen as the scientists debate the matter.

I never knew that phrase: "My Very Educated Mother Just Served us Nine Pickles" ... thanks for highlighting it here for us and adding to the post - cheers Hilary