(Although the recent discussion on whether to downgrade Pluto to a minor planet has resulted in no change to its planetary status, we thought we would take a very brief look into Pluto's history ourselves.)
The unusual orbital characteristics of the ninth planet, Pluto, have led some astronomers to suspect that Pluto is not a major planet like the other eight. Pluto's orbit...is so eccentric that [it] can come closer to the sun than Neptune, as it will for two decades beginning in 1979.
Pluto was discovered in 1930 after an extensive search initiated by Percival Lowell...Pluto's mass (not over a tenth of the earth's)...mean distance from the sun--3,666,000,000 miles...Its diameter is about 60% of the earth's.
Collier's Encyclopedia, 1963
...Percival Lowell inaugurated a telescopic search for a new planet in 1905. The search was continued by various members of the staff of the Lowell Observatory until in 1930 the planet Pluto was discovered by the American astronomer Clyde William Tombaugh...Pluto is invisible to the naked eye; viewed through the telescope it has a yellowish color...
Universal Standard Encylopedia, 1955
Charon, Pluto's grayish satellite, was discovered by American astrophysicist James W. Christy on June 22, 1978...Charon completes one revolution in 6.39 days, the same as Pluto's rotation period. The two objects may be relics of the early days of the solar system.
Grolier's Encyclopedia, 1995
plutonium--the name is derived from the planet Pluto.
Grolier's Encyclopedia, 1995
IAU Considers Downgrading Pluto To Minor Planet [International Astronomical Union] December 22, 1998
This week, a group of astronomers will turn their attention away from weighty issues like the fate of the universe and the search for new worlds to a question most people thought was settled a long time ago:
Just what the heck is Pluto?
Those who ring their buzzers and reply simply "the ninth planet" are in agreement with history, tradition, and most astronomy textbooks.
But, it turns out, there is a heated debate going on among astronomers about whether, in addition to its traditional status as a major planet, Pluto should be given a kind of "dual citizenship" as an asteroid, or minor planet - another term for these diminutive members of the sun's family.
The issue will come to a head this week with the conclusion of a formal vote by a division of the International Astronomical Union.
Two coincidental facts have given rise to this brewing tempest in terminology. First, just as the numbers on the calendar are rapidly approaching the much anticipated rollover to triple zeros, a sequential numbering system for the known asteroids is about to reach the momentous number 10,000. The count, updated monthly, stands at 9,826 and is growing by more than 100 a month, and some astronomers would like to save that special number for a truly special case - Pluto. Second, a new family of objects in the solar system has been discovered over the last six years - a family to
which Pluto bears a striking resemblance.
Hades (Pluto) He was the third brother among the Olympians [there are 12 great Olympians], who drew for his share the underworld and the rule over the dead. He as also called Pluto, the god of Wealth, of the precious metals hidden in the earth....It was rare that he left his dark realm to visit Olympus or the earth, nor was he urged to do so. He was not a welcome visitor. He was unpitying, inexorable, but just; a terrible, not an evil god...
Mythology, Edith Hamilton
Charon, in Greek mythology, the ferry-man who conveys souls of the dead across the River Styx in Hades. To pay the soul's fare, a small coin was placed in the mouth of the dead before burial. If this rite was neglected, Charon refused to convey the shade across, and it was doomed to wander restlessly on the shore of Acheron...On Etruscan monuments Charon is represented as a demon of death, with bestial face, huge tusks, and pointed ears, carrying snakes or, more commonly, a large hammer. In Roman times, the bodies of fallen gladiators were dragged from the arena by a man disguised as this demon. In modern Greek superstition Charon survives as Charos or Charontas, who, as a black bird of prey or winged horseman, bears victims to the world of the dead.
Universal Standard Encyclopedia