Last week, the release of Mike Brown's new book, How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming (we published an excerpt), sparked a heated debate among professionals and amateurs alike that we haven't seen since, well, Pluto was delisted as a planet several years ago. Leading the charge was Laurel Kornfeld, a freelance writer and community activist who has made a name for herself on the Internet as the Pluto savior.
Kornfeld, who holds degrees in journalism, Middle East studies and English education from both Rutgers and Harvard, is working on a book that argues why Pluto should still be considered our ninth planet. An excerpt is published below. She also maintains a blog about Pluto.
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And of all planets in our solar system, Pluto is the strangest, the most different, the most enigmatic, one of the furthest away, the least known, the smallest, and the most fascinating. Combine all of these with a natural sentiment favoring the underdog, and the result is public fascination with this tiny underdog planet that by all odds, should not even have been discovered when it was, much less endowed with the honor of designation as a planet.
New discoveries in the last decade have changed the planetary landscape to the point that Pluto is no longer the furthest planet, even in our own solar system, or the smallest. But it is still the boundary of an unknown, unexplored frontier. The solar system, it turns out, is bigger and more diverse than we ever imagined. Moons of planets have been imaged and shown to be entire worlds in their own right, worlds that may even harbor microbial life in subsurface oceans. Our own Moon has been found to have water. And instead of being a lonely outpost at the solar system's edge, Pluto is now the gateway to yet a new region beyond Neptune, the Kuiper Belt. It is the next planet to be explored by a robotic flyby mission, New Horizons, launched in January 2006 and scheduled to rendezvous with its target in July 2015.