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How the Facts Align

Dominic Santoro, 7, of Reading, Pa., views a model of the solar system in the Outer Space Place at the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore.
Dominic Santoro, 7, of Reading, Pa., views a model of the solar system in the Outer Space Place at the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore. (By Robert A. Reeder -- The Washington Post)

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"If Pluto isn't, well," a planet, he asked, "will it still be part of the solar system?"

For 4-year-old Benjamin Meman of Frederick, whose interest in outer space has not developed far beyond Martians, the loss of Pluto means one fewer magnet on the refrigerator.

For Ben Kranner, 13, of Madison, Wis., one fewer planet will require a new planetary mnemonic device. " 'My very excellent mother just served us nine pancakes' will become 'My very excellent mother just served us nine. . . .,' " he said. "It doesn't make any sense."

His father, Paul Kranner, who was studying a panoramic image of Mars, took the news harder.

"I didn't think they would actually decide that," he said of the scientists.

He said his son's generation has not inherited the same keen interest in outer space as his own.

"In the 1960s and 1970s, space was really cool," Kranner said. "If there was an Apollo landing, they would cancel school or they would roll a giant TV into the cafeteria, and everybody would watch it. But back then it was just Apollo and the moon, and that was it. Pluto used to be one little blur in the telescope."

Now there are bigger telescopes and more blurs, he said, and there may be 600 planets or there may be eight. With each discovery, he said, "They'll add another sentence to the book."


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