This is an exciting time for astronomy fanatics! New Horizons has finally passed by Pluto and its moons, and it only took a little over nine years. Everyone’s favorite demoted planet is back in the spotlight. You can catch all the latest pictures and news from John Hopkins’s Applied Physics Labratory, New Horizons’s official Facebook page (and on Twitter), and NASA’s New Horizons site. After you’ve finished geeking out over the pictures, come visit us to get some awesome books on Pluto.
A funny book about the decommissioning of Pluto? (Well, maybe not funny to Pluto’s most ardent and stubborn fans.) How I Killed Pluto and Why it Had it Coming is a thoughtful and informative read about Mike Brown’s discovery of Eris (a planet larger than Pluto, which triggered the debate over Pluto’s status) and the resulting downfall of Pluto’s official status as a major planet; it’s also a sweet peon to his daughter, who was born during the heated controversy. (adult nonfiction)
Astrophysicist superstar Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet is a perfect demonstration of Tyson’s ability to explain complicated and confusing astrophysics topics to a lay audience. As director of the Hayden Planetarium, Tyson was the primary focus of media attention (and hate mail) when the New York Times noted that its exhibit on the planetary system showed Pluto as an object in the Kepler system instead of a major planet. Tyson reveals the fascinating history of Pluto (Pluto was the only planet discovered by an American and at an American laboratory), the contentious debate over its status and the reasoning behind Pluto’s demotion. He also shares many letters penned by angry, defiant and supportive citizens, many of which were from schoolchildren. One highlight was from a high school science class that thoroughly debated the controversy. (Adult nonfiction)
Pluto’s Secret: An Icy World’s Tale of Discovery is quite whimsical, but effectively manages to get the basics down about Pluto’s status and how scientists classify (and reclassify) the solar system. This is an attention-getting presentation about the dwarf planet published by the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum. (children’s nonfiction)
Taking a more serious (but still compelling) approach, When is a Planet Not a Planet? The Story of Pluto offers superb explanations on how technology helps researchers redefine the solar system as well as the history and classification of Pluto. (children’s nonfiction)
We have many more amazing astronomy-related books in our children’s and adult nonfiction collections (start at 520 and work your way through the stacks for handbooks, single subject books on the planets, and more).
For book lists, reviews and staff suggestions for children published prior to January 2015, visit Kiddosphere, our blog about children/young adult fiction and non-fiction.
Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library