Most readers will remember when the International Astronomical Union got together in 2006, consulted whatever oracles of science they hold dear, and told the rest of us that the planet Pluto had officially been demoted to ‘dwarf planet’ status. Depending on your age and interests at the time, the news item was anything from a major upheaval in your knowledge set, to a quirky two-minute phase in that season’s dinner conversation.
But if you feel nostalgic for poor Pluto and want to show your kids a space explorer who gives it the proper respect (as in, the show’s production predates the demotion), fly down to Rusty Rocket’s Last Blast! at USM’s Southworth Planetarium (70 Falmouth St.) on Thursday, July 13 at 11 a.m. Tickets are $5.50, with fifty cents off for seniors and children, and they include a Night Sky Tour presentation in addition to the animated program.
The basic premise is that Rusty and his young Rocket Rookies go on a space voyage from the sun to each planet in turn, featuring the latest telescope and probe images of all nine planets from the old mnemonic, “My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas.” And, when you think about it, the eight-planet mnemonic we have now is sort of a demotion too, food-wise: “My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Noodles.” You might have to order OTTO in Pluto’s honor. Go old-school.
For even more astronomical fun, go back to Southworth on the following Thursday at the same time of day for The Little Star that Could, a dome show about, of course, a star, who hasn’t been named yet and travels the galaxy to earn his title, meanwhile taking viewers on a tour of all the star types, from white dwarfs to red giants. The immersive nature of the full-dome experience goes far toward doing justice to the visual majesty of celestial bodies. Incidentally, some scientists are pushing to demote certain nebulae to “Minor Gas Cloud” status. But don’t worry, we hear that those are the same guys from the flat-earth camp. Horsehead is safe for now.
Rusty Rocket’s Last Blast!: http://usm.maine.edu/planet/rusty-rockets-last-blast-4
The Little Star that Could: http://usm.maine.edu/planet/little-star-could-2