Poor Pluto. Poor misunderstood, maligned, underrated, way-out-there Pluto. Poor eccentric little rubber ball. Is it a planet? A comet? An asteroid? Fifty-seven years old and no one—not even its closest friends and admirers—knows if it’s a grown-up.

The debate over Pluto’s status rages on, largely in the popular press. For example, within a 2-month period, The New York Times reported that Pluto is such a runt that it may be getting kicked out of the planetary litter (March 30, p. B-6) and then that it’s got such a nice little atmosphere that it might really be a planet after all (May 14, p. A-23). Is it any wonder Pluto’s a bit schizophrenic? It can’t even decide whether or not to be the farthest planet from the Sun (until 1999 Neptune has that honor; then Pluto takes over).

Pluto is so devalued that a little rodent like Mickey Mouse gets to...

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