I’ve always felt a kinship with the planet Pluto, and recently I wrote an open letter to it in preparation for the New Horizons fly-by which, as I understand it, has already happened. I submitted it to a couple of online publications and both passed on it. So, I’m posting it here.
First off, let me just say I love the name. It’s a little mysterious and odd—quite a bit more vowels than normal, and with a “u” in the middle.
I’ll admit that when I first learned about the solar system I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about you. You were always kind of there, in the way back, behind other, much cooler planets like the giant Jupiter, Saturn with its magnificent rings, and the brilliantly blue Neptune. Hell, your Wikipedia page doesn’t even have a clear picture of you right now, but instead there’s just some blurry grey-ish gif. I also know you have moons, and one of them is Charon, but that’s it.
So I won’t lie. There was a long time when I thought the Disney character of the same name was cooler than you. I mean, Pluto the dog didn’t say much, but at least he had personality and was more than just a gif on Wikipedia.
But in 2006, it was determined by the powers that be that you were technically not a true planet. At first, I didn’t give it too much thought. I wasn’t into astronomy enough to know or care what any of that meant. But later, as I thought about it, I realized I felt an inexplicable sense of loss. At first I chalked this up to the regular disillusionment that comes with being older. But, somehow—and I can’t quite pinpoint why—I felt that there was something deeper in there. Exactly what it was didn’t occur to me until several years later, when I got into astrology and had my birth chart done.
Apparently, Pluto is in my first house, as well as one of the most dominant planets in my chart. In astrology, the first house is often seen as the place where the chart starts, and is viewed as the house that defines your core identity and how you are perceived by the outside world. The astrological sign in the first house is also called the ascendant—mine happens to be Scorpio, which is ruled by…you guessed it, Pluto. People with a Scorpio ascendant are often mysterious, intense, and always looking through the deception to get the true story. Also, I have read that those with Pluto in the first house are described as being born survivors, constantly rebirthing themselves, like the phoenix. I was always kind of into astrology, but when I decided to get my birth chart done and interpreted, suddenly a lot of things made sense. It totally described me down to the exact detail.
Since I have come to learn this, you’ve fascinated me more and more. I now feel both a certain kinship with and an increasing desire to learn more about you. I haven’t been able to do too much reading, but I took a quick glance at your Wikipedia page again, and I learned, among other things that your name is borrowed from the Roman name of the god of the underworld, making the planet an actual symbol of the end, the unknown.
But what has fascinated me the most is that, like your meaning in astrology, you’re still mysterious, and we don’t know a lot about you. I mean, there had been debate for years about whether or not you were a planet before you were declared to not be one. When I realized this, I felt bad because I had taken you for granted. You were there until you weren’t, and I had never really fully appreciated you. I’m not going to profess to know more than people who have studied astronomy for years about what is and isn’t a planet. But deep down I’ve always hoped that, somehow, you would be vindicated.
And maybe you will be. In July of this year, the New Horizons probe will do a fly-by in an attempt to learn more about you as well as your moons and the other dwarf planets near you. You may not know it, but on Earth there’s talk that you may become a planet again after all. Obviously I can accept it if it isn’t, but after reading my astrological chart, I feel that you’re a part of me—and in a way, it is—and I can’t help but feel that it deserves the best. It is my hope that you are given justice, but even if you don’t become a planet, you will always have a special place in my heart.