Who knew Pluto could be so controversial?
In 2017, Uncle Goose released the Planet Blocks. They’re a successful nine-block set. Adults and children both seem to enjoy these colorful blocks.
When customers write to tell us they like our Planet Blocks, they often mention Pluto. Most people who write are thrilled that we included Pluto in the Planet Block set.
And yet, we also get a few passionate letters from Pluto’s detractors. They like to remind us that Pluto is not a planet. It’s a fair point.
In 2006, the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) concluded that Pluto is not a planet. So why does Uncle Goose include it in the Planet Block set?
Pluto has historical significance. It was once considered the ninth planet in our solar system. Many people alive today were raised to believe Pluto is a planet.
But in 2006, the IAU decided a planet must do three things. First, it must orbit the sun. Second, it must be shaped like a sphere. And third, it must not have any objects in its way as it orbits the sun.
Pluto doesn’t meet all three criteria for a planet. It orbits the sun. Plus, it’s spherical.
However, Pluto doesn’t have enough of a gravitational field. It can’t force objects like ice out of its path as it travels around the sun. And that’s why Pluto isn’t a planet.
When your Uncle Goose created the packaging for the Planet Block set, we were clear on this point. We wrote:
“This 9 block set honors all 8 planets in our solar system; plus a bonus dwarf planet, Pluto.”
We aren’t thrilled that the IAU chose to use the term “dwarf planet.” Why? They didn’t clearly define what a dwarf planet actually is!
After all, the term “dwarf planet” has the word “planet” right in it. This can lead people to incorrectly believe that Pluto is a small planet.
The term “dwarf planet” is a poorly defined phrase. It’s probably lead to more confusion than clarity. Unfortunately, we’re stuck with this term for the time being.
Uncle Goose included Pluto in our 9 block set because of its historical significance. It provides an opportunity for children and adults to enjoy a valuable conversation.
By including the block, we hope that people could talk about the factors that make a planet a planet. Or the historical significance of Pluto’s discovery and role in popular culture.
To this extent, we think we succeeded. People use the Pluto block to inspire discussions and do further research.
Plus, you’ve got to admit it: the Pluto block is pretty sweet. Take a look at our drawing of the heart shaped Tombaugh Regio on the Pluto block.
The Pluto Block is a beautiful block. It inspires interesting questions, curiosity, and intelligent discussion about history and science. And those are great reasons for your Uncle Goose to include the Pluto block in our Planet Blocks set.