February 20, 2008 saw a total lunar eclipse over a full moon. It was cloudy here in Atlanta most of the day and into the evening but it cleared up in time to see this uncommon event - about 10pm. All day the local radio and television stations were talking about the eclipse and our chances of seeing it. In case you missed it here are some pictures as posted on Wired.com. The Lowell Observatory also has some spectacular images. This got me thinking about space, our solar system and its planets.
Discovered in 1930 Pluto was demoted to "minor planet number 134340" on August 24, 2006. Poor distant Pluto has also gone from noun to verb. tThe American Dialect Society voted it 2006 Word of the Year. Defining "to pluto or be plutoed" as "to demote or devalue someone or something", "as happened to the former planet Pluto when the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union decided Pluto no longer met its definition of a planet."
Consider the website "Pluto is a Planet!". Dave FM (92.9 on the local radio dial) has resurrected a campaign to reinstate Pluto as a full fledged member of our Solar System. Our Product Managers and Designers joined the campaign and created a Pluto For Planet T-shirt as a new item for our Biology and Physics catalogs.
On a more serious note, you check out these links to interactive astronomy web sites. NASA's Jet Propulsion Labs (JPL) have a solar system simulator which is fascinating. Choose a planet, pick your field of view such as another planet or an orbiting spacecraft, a date past or present, and run the simulation. For the younger audience out there here's a link to an interactive solar system. This site has tons of information about the planets suitable for kids through middle school age.