NASA’s Star Search for Pluto Pals

Was your son or daughter born Jan. 19, 1996 or Jan. 19, 2006? If so, NASA is looking for you.

Earlier this week, on June 8, NASA’s New Horizons mission crossed the orbit of Saturn on its way to Pluto. That news got me exploring the Web site of the mission and studying its timeline. By NASA’s reckoning, “closest encounter” (see, these scientists have a little show biz in them!) operations with Pluto will begin Apr. 12, 2015.

In the meantime, the New Horizons Kids Club is looking for “Pluto pals.” These are children who were either born or turned 10 on Jan. 19, 2006, the day the New Horizons mission was launched. Principal investigator Dr. Alan Stern has already located five of these kids and they are on this Internet page:

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/education/plutoPals/index.php

If you or your kids want to track the progress of the New Horizons mission, you can do it here:
http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/mission/whereis_nh.php
This site has way-cool graphics. Talk about getting the big picture.

The New Horizons mission started before astronomers downgraded Pluto from a planet to a dwarf planet in August, 2006. Here’s a link to an article about that controversial decision: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14489259/

At that time, Pluto was given a number — 134340 — to replace its name. But somehow, “I have Venus square 134340 in my chart” doesn’t have the same ring to it as “I have Venus square Pluto in my chart.”

As that old Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose song reminds us, it’s too late to turn back now. Pluto or bust!

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