To WHERE and Back?

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.

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  1. 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?
  2. 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.
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