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Eleven-year-old Venetia Burney was eating breakfast at her home in Oxford, England, on the morning of March 14, 1930, when her grandfather delivered some exciting news. Clyde Tombaugh, an eagle-eyed assistant at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, had discovered visual proof of a long-theorized "trans-Neptunian object" on the edge of the solar system. The scientists gave their discovery the placeholder name of Planet X, but Venetia had a better idea.
"Why not call it Pluto?" she asked. In Roman mythology, Pluto wasn't just Neptune's brother. He was also the ruler of the underworld. And it stood to reason, Venetia said, that because Planet X orbited so far away from the sun, it would be as lifeless, cold and overcast as the shadowlands themselves.
Venetia - Grandfather - Falconer - Madan - Librarian
Venetia's grandfather, Falconer Madan, a retired librarian of Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford, seized upon the idea. He immediately routed her suggestion to Oxford astronomer Herbert Hall Turner, who in turn dashed off a telegraph to Lowell Observatory. It read: "Naming new planet, please consider PLUTO, suggested by small girl Venetia Burney for dark and gloomy planet."
Tombaugh and his colleagues voted unanimously for the name, and on May 24, Planet X was officially christened Pluto.
Venetia - Alice - B - McGinty - Author
But you'd be forgiven if you haven't heard of Venetia. Alice B. McGinty, an award-winning author of more than 40 books for children, hadn't — at least not until she happened upon a mention of the schoolgirl while researching something unrelated. More than 80 years had passed, but McGinty was hooked.
"An 11-year-old girl had named Pluto? I'd had no idea, and the thought of it intrigued me so much that I stopped working on the other project and dove into Venetia's story, finding out everything I could," McGinty told Space.com. "I had the book outlined in my head...
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