Ask someone how many planets there are in the Solar System and, depending on their age, they’ll likely answer either eight or nine. While most adults grew up in a world with nine planets, schoolchildren have been taught since 2006 that Pluto is too small and different to qualify for the planet club. Pluto’s reclassification came on the heels of astronomer Mike Brown’s 2005 discovery of Eris, a similar icy dwarf beyond Neptune that forced astronomers to carefully consider what is and isn’t a planet. Eris and Pluto turned out to share the same characteristics as more than a thousand similar Kuiper Belt objects, so both were downgraded to dwarf planet status and Mike Brown became known as the ‘Pluto Killer.’ Now, Brown could be ready to rewrite the textbooks again.
Planet Nine, the latest show debuting in the Faulkner Planetarium, examines the possibility that a large, yet-undiscovered planet orbits at the icy fringes of the Solar System. Brown and his collaborator, Konstantin Batygin, theorize that the gravity of an unseen, Neptune-sized world may explain the puzzling motions of Pluto’s most distant Kuiper Belt cousins. Planet Nine details Brown’s search for a needle in a very big haystack, with only scant clues hinting at where to look.
Planet Nine was produced by Chicago’s Adler Planetarium. Mike Brown narrates his search for the dim, dark, and distant world beyond Neptune.
The Faulkner Planetarium is located in the Herrett Center for Arts and Science on the College of Southern Idaho campus in Twin Falls. It is Idaho’s largest planetarium and has served the public for nearly 22 years bringing some of the world’s finest planetarium shows to south central Idaho audiences.
Planetarium admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, and $4 for students, including CSI students with a valid student ID. Children under age 2 are admitted free.
Planet Nine opens Sept. 5 with showings at 7 p.m. Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays and at 2:30 p.m. Saturday afternoons throughout September. The show will remain on the public schedule when show times change Oct. 1.
For more information, visit the Herrett Center’s web page at http://herrett.csi.edu or call (208) 732-6655.