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Adler Planetarium makes final push to convince you Pluto is not a planet

Written by
Jonathan Samples

If you’re like me, the demotion of Pluto to dwarf planet came as a shock. But like most rational, non-astronomers, I deferred to the experts and welcomed the news as a fresh new insight into how our solar system is constructed. Still, some of you dug in your heels, dredged up vague memories from seventh-grade science class and took to defending Pluto’s honor.

Far be it from me to point out how absolutely wrong you are. Instead, head to the Alder Planetarium for your last chance to learn the science and facts behind planet formation in the award-winning “What is a Planet?” exhibit, which closes January 9.

The temporary exhibit, which opened to the public last March, allows visitors to re-examine the ways astronomers and mass media reacted to Pluto’s reclassification in 2006, explore artifacts that show how “planets” aren’t what they used to be, and learn how today's scientists define a planet. But fear not Pluto-lovers, “What is a Planet?” will even give you the opportunity to voice your (wrong) opinion through an interactive voting poll.

“‘What is a Planet?’ addresses the most compelling questions in astronomy (like why isn’t Pluto a planet anymore?) in a fun, dynamic way, and demonstrates how new approaches and perspectives in science can help change our view of the universe,” Adler curator Pedro Raposo said in a release.

In November, the exhibit was recognized by the British Society for the History of Science, receiving first prize in the 2016 BSHS Great Exhibitions competition. James Stark, chair of the society’s outreach and education committee, called “What is a Planet” a clear winner. “We are delighted to be able to recognize the exhibition in this way, as we felt that it was very carefully crafted and blended historical research and objects with a contemporary focus in a truly engaging and innovative way”

And because “audience experience” was the main judging criteria in the Great Exhibitions competition, you know it’s worth checking out.

Adler Planetarium will close “What is a Planet?” early next month to make room for its newest temporary exhibit, “Chasing Eclipses.” The new exhibit will allow guests to experience a total solar eclipse and prepare them for the upcoming North American solar eclipse on August 21, 2017.

“While Chicago isn’t in the path of totality, we’ll be pretty darn close,” Adler spokeswoman Jen Furey said. “As we prepare to celebrate the eclipse, we’ll be raising awareness, drumming up excitement, and giving people all the tools they need to make the most of this rare celestial event.”

Chasing Eclipses opens March 25, and on August 21 the planetarium will celebrate all things solar with safe viewing of the Sun, free outdoor activities, solar cooking demonstrations, solar cars and music.

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