Saturday, July 29, 2006

Pluto's namer honoured

"You don't just go around telling people that you named Pluto," says Venetia Phair, nee Burney, 87, a retired teacher in Epsom in Surrey. At least - it seems to me - not unless you did.

If I was the only living person who had named one of the solar system's nine planets, I would probably mention it on every possible occasion. "Two pounds of apples, please. Oh, and by the way, I named Pluto."

That an 11-year-old English girl called Venetia thought up the name while having breakfast with her granddad is perhaps less surprising than the fact that her suggestion became enshrined in the pantheon of the solar system. Granddad, who informed Venetia of the news by reading her the Times's account of the planet's discovery, happened to have a friend who was an astronomer, and he happened to pass the suggestion on to the Flagstaff Observatory in Arizona. They said, "Yeah, why not?", and the die was cast.

This month she has recieved a new accolade for the rest of the New Horizons spacecraft’s voyage to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt beyond, the Student Dust Counter – the first science instrument on a NASA planetary mission to be designed, built and
operated by students – will be known as the Venetia Burney Student Dust Counter
(VBSDC), or “Venetia” for short.


yellowdog granny said...

wait wait..they forgot to tell us if she named it pluto for the disney dog pluto....geez

dom said...

She really wanted to call it Goofy , but they compromised !