When I was in the 5th grade, I became immensely interested in astronomy. I saw some recorded program on PBS which featured our solar system. The images of all the planets and mysteries of these worlds intrigued me into wanting more knowledge on the subject. I would find books at home that covered the subject and eventually would go outside to view the moon and stars with our binoculars. For Christmas, I would receive a refractor telescope and get some nice viewings, with my favorite site being Saturn and its ring system. Still, there were three missing planets that only the most powerful telescopes and our space programs could witness.
1985 and 1989 were fantastic years as Voyager 2 unlocked the secrets of two of the most distant planets in the solar system with Uranus and Neptune. I recall distinctly when both were shown how I stayed up all night waiting for images to come through. In particular, Triton, Nepture’s largest moon, interested me the most since it was such a huge object next to the gas giant. Once Voyager 2 left Neptune, the only remaining mystery that was left was Pluto.
Sure, we have objects like Ceres and other asteroids circling the sun. Those too have finally been unveiled with similar programs. But Pluto is one of those spots that humans, up until now, have only speculated for decades. It’s a controversial spot that changed the definition of our expectations when we grew up. I always thought about our solar system as a 9 planet system and there’s always going to be a part of me that will retain that definition.
Still, seeing the images starting to make sense of this remaining mystery is something of a lifetime goal/dream of mine. I know there are other planets being discovered beyond our solar system and I realize that our deep space programs have detected additional objects hovering around beyond Pluto’s reach. Yet many of these things started to pop up only within the past two decades as our instruments and techniques have improved over time.
Pluto though is one of those fascinating pieces of history for me since it makes me recall the excitement of 1985 and 1989 all over again. This is a new world that we’ve only speculated about and have received extremely vague and blurry images that left our imaginations wondering.
Seeing the pictures come into view finally makes me feel ecstatic. I remember when the project was first announced ages ago and seeing the arrival date. I kept thinking to myself, “Gee, where would I be? How old would I be? What will my family be like?”
A lot of those answers ended up being extremely sad for myself. Things didn’t come to pass as I had hoped. One of my saddest moments in all of this was not seeing my father being able to witness this with me. Much of my interest in space and engineering are the result of his own passion for the subject. I wanted him to be around with me when the planet would be revealed. He would’ve been in his 70s if he survived but I’m sure he would’ve appreciated seeing something like this.
Part of me gets angry in realizing that humans are such tragic figures. There’s so much knowledge and truth in this world that we never come to realize. Part of the reason we don’t get a chance to understand it is our vulnerabilities. Some part of me wants to scream at the science community to just “hurry the fuck up!” because they are slow. Then another part makes me understand that the issue sometimes is political and economic. So basically we get held back by stupidity and bad reasoning. Pretty sad state of affairs.
Pluto though offers hope with true progress in our expanded notion of the universe. I can’t wait for the next few days as the New Horizon’s space craft continues to approach the planet and makes it closest approach. I’m wishing everyone at the New Horizon’s project the best of luck and to commend them for giving us these small goals in life to help push us forward in giving us something to positive to look forward to.