A History Lesson With Booze ®

From ‘Planet X’ to Pluto

This week, back in 1930, Pluto was officially named. And of course we don’t mean the Disney character.

Getty Images News
Getty Images News

For something we’re now told isn’t a planet, folks sure worked hard to discover Pluto.

It started in the 1840s. When scientists noted the planet Uranus had a strange orbit. Something seemed to be pulling on it. They soon figured out what it was: another, hitherto undiscovered planet, Neptune.

But Neptune didn’t seem big enough to entirely account for Uranus’s orbit. Another planet was probably out there too. So in 1906, millionaire Percival Lowell launched a project to find what he called “Planet X.”

From the observatory Lowell founded in Arizona, his team searched the skies for decades. Finally, one night — 14 years after Lowell’s death — astronomer Clyde Tombaugh was looking at two pictures of a star field, taken weeks apart. Using what’s called a “blink comparator,” he toggled them back and forth and saw one “star” move. Eureka! It was Planet X.

Folks around the world wrote to Lowell Observatory suggesting names for the new planet. At one point Constance Lowell – Percival’s widow — humbly suggested “Constance.”  But an 11-year-old British schoolgirl finally came up with the winning name: Pluto — the ancient God of the cold and distant underworld. And it didn’t hurt that the first two letters were Percival Lowell’s initials.

The girl got a measly five pounds sterling for her contribution – but in retrospect, that was probably fair.  Today, most scientists agree Neptune is the sole cause of Uranus’ orbit… and Pluto is just one of many dwarf planets in the solar system.

Lowell’s Love Affair

Photo credit: Elana Lepkowski, stirandstrain.com

Photo credit: Elana Lepkowski, stirandstrain.com

Thoughtfully developed by Nick Williams, head bartender at Tinderbox Kitchen Annex in Flagstaff, AZ, in the shadow of Lowell Observatory:

2 ½ ounces Smalls American Dry Gin
½ ounce Ransom Dry Vermouth
10 plump pomegranate seeds
2 Sprigs of Rosemary

Muddle pomegranate seeds and leaves of one rosemary sprig. Add gin and vermouth. Shake with ice for about 45 seconds. Strain into glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel wrapped around the second sprig of rosemary.  Sip until you discover something otherworldly.