He would be so pleased

If the stars are all in alignment later in this legislative session, members of the New Mexico Senate are expected to ensure that Pluto regains its status as a full-fledged planet. Well, at least unofficially – for as long as its orbit carries it over the Land of Enchantment. Some folks in the state, you see, sort of took it personally when the International Astronomical Union voted last August to reclassify Pluto as a "dwarf" planet. (Or, as the IAU put it, "the prototype of a new category of trans-Neptunian objects.") The New Mexicans might not have cared but for the fact that Clyde Tombaugh is credited with discovering Pluto 77 years ago . Tombaugh, who lived in Las Cruces, went on to found New Mexico State University's Department of Astronomy, and the school's observatory is named for him. Last week, his crowning achievement became the subject of a nonbinding "memorial" that passed the House of Representatives and was sent to the Senate. The measure returns Pluto to the planetary big leagues as it "passes through New Mexico's excellent night skies." On hand for the occasion were Patsy Tombaugh, his widow, and their daughter, Annette. The resolution isn't likely to change the IAU's decision, Patsy Tombaugh conceded, "but it's a very nice gesture."

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