“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet.”
–From Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)
As we contemplate the fact that Pluto is now to be classified as a “dwarf planet,” becoming one of a class of similar objects beyond Neptune, some people may feel a bit sad. The reality, of course, is that Pluto has not gone anywhere, and nothing has changed in the shape of our solar system. The astronomers are simply changing and clarifying how we classify the objects that make it up. Back in the 1800’s Ceres was initially classified as a planet. Eventually, as other objects were discovered between Mars and Jupiter, it was reclassified as one of the asteroids that fill that region of space. Ceres did not suddenly vanish in a puff of pink smoke. Neither has Pluto. But it is a reasonable reclassification which helps us understand the structure of our solar system a bit better.