Uranus (Courtesy NASA, JPL-Caltech)
August is Birthday Month in our family. Three in our quintet were born in August and one missed it by only a single day. Our daughters’ b’days are just two days — oh, and a few years! — apart. So it was that at this year’s arrival of those two days, my tender-hearted spouse, Sandra, wrote the following message to post on Facebook:
Today is my eldest daughter’s birthday, and in two days my youngest daughter has that honor. Both are strong, smart sweethearts who are juggling challenging jobs, motherhood and more. I admire them immensely and love them to Saturn and back.
Before posting it, however, Sandra made the mistake of showing the message to me. “Why Saturn?” I asked. “If you want to pick something truly distant, why not the farthest planet, Pluto?” Then, remembering that Pluto1 has been “demoted” and is no longer considered a planet, I suggested the most distant “true planet” that came (erroneously) to mind, Uranus.2
Of course, as soon as I said it out loud, we both burst out laughing. It tickled my “little boy in an old fart’s body” sense of humor so much that I kept laughing, tears streaming down my face, for a good five minutes.
Sweet Sandra would never post a message like that, so she chose a much more distant object, the star Arcturus, nearly 37 light years away, and put it on Facebook.
But I think my suggested version — love them to Uranus and back — is too funny not to share.
- As I recall, astronomers — based on careful measurements of planetary orbits — believe there may be still another “trans-Neptunian” dwarf planet, like Pluto, out there, yet to be located. I fear that when they finally spot it, they’ll give it another sober-sounding name. I’ve long had a better idea. Since Pluto might be regarded as having been named for one of Disney’s dogs, why not name the next planetoid Goofy?
- Thanks to my parents’ encouragement of my interest in astronomy, I’d learned — probably by third grade — the names of all the planets and their order in the solar system. So, once upon a time, I had known that the most distant planet is actually Neptune. But I’d forgotten. If I’d remembered it right, it probably wouldn’t have occurred to me to suggest Uranus.