There is some uncertainty about the exact time at which the IAU (International Astronomical Union) voted to downgrade Pluto to the status of “dwarf” planet. The vote took place during the afternoon session of 24 August 2006 in Prague. In the initial version of this post I had confused some information about the time zones, so this is a revised edition.
Maggie Hyde argued for 03:44:29 pm CEST (Central European Summer TIme, UT + 2) as the moment of the demotion of Pluto. Writing in the ISAR e-zine vol. 408, she notes that “A fascinating video of the IAU session which voted to demote Pluto is available online at: http://www.astronomy2006.com/media-stream-archive.php.” She assumed that the start of the afternoon session began exactly on time (at 2 PM) and reported that if you fast-forward to 1:44:29 hours of the video, you come to the point where the Chair announces the motion carried on Resolution 6A concerning Pluto as a dwarf planet. This gives the demotion map a time of 03:44:29 pm CEST, 24 August 2006, Prague. The problem with Maggie Hyde’s argument is that the afternoon session most likely did not begin on time. Have you ever attended a conference where meetings began precisely at the time indicated?
In fact, the science writer Robert Roy Britt published his “scoop” about the demotion of Pluto on space.com at exactly 9:35 AM ET (Eastern Time, which was EDT, or UT – 4) on 24 August 2006. The time in Prague at the moment of publication of this news scoop was 3:35 PM CEDT, almost a full 10 minutes before the time estimated by Maggie Hyde. It appears from the content of the article that Mr. Britt was attending the IAU conference when he posted online at 3:35 PM CEDT that “Officially, Pluto is no longer a planet.” Since he was writing a breaking news story, the vote must have just taken place, and it probably occurred no more than a few minutes earlier. Clearly the vote could not have occurred after the posting of his article. Thus, Maggie Hyde’s estimate is at least 10 minutes after the fact.
Let’s assume that it took Robert Roy Britt a minute or two to post his breaking news online. This would make the time of Pluto’s demotion slightly before 3:35 PM CEDT when the news was posted. Here is the chart for 3:35 PM CEDT, which is probably very close to the actual time of Pluto’s fall from grace and is the actual time that the news was first made public. It is a Jupiter day during a Sun hour. The Sun in this chart rules the 8th house of death.
It is a Jupiter day during a Mars hour. Pluto is retrograde in Sagittarius in the 1st house.
There is a strong 8th house emphasis, which probably signifies the death of the idea of Pluto as a full-fledged planet. Mars, which rules the 4th house of one’s elders and foundations, applies to square Pluto from the 8th of death. Pluto will no longer be accepted as a member of the family of “classical” 4th-house planets.
The 9th house represents science and higher learning. With Virgo on the cusp, the 9th house is ruled by Mercury which applies closely to trine Pluto. The scientists were focused passionately on Pluto in this meeting. Interestingly, the Hellenistic Lot of Eros lies at 22 Leo 44, almost conjoins Mercury at 23 Leo 36. Apparently the scientists were deriving some sort of erotic pleasure in demoting Pluto from his planet-hood. Or, to use the Freudian metaphor, the IAU astronomers were erotically engaged in castrating this planetary symbol of an ancient godhead.
If anyone has evidence of an exact time of the vote to demote Pluto, please leave a comment in the space below.
Since I could not find a record of an exact time for the demotion of Pluto, I continued researching the issue.
The official program of the IAU 2006 meeting in Prague states the following (sections in bold and color were done by me):
“The Final IAU Resolution on the definition of “planet” ready for voting 24-August-2006, Prague At the second session of the 2006 International Astronomical Union (IAU) General Assembly, which will be held 14:00 Thursday 24 August, members of the IAU will vote on the Resolutions presented below. There will be separate sequential votes on Resolution 5A and Resolution 5B. Similarly, there will be separate votes on Resolutions 6A and 6B. Following active discussion among IAU scientists at the IAU 2006 General Assembly in Prague, draft Resolution 6b (issued 16 August 2006) has been updated and amended. IAU President Ron Ekers says: ‘IAU’s rules for proposing resolutions are based on an open democratic process and it is a great pleasure for the IAU Executive Committee to see the level of engagement of so many astronomers here. We want to engage as broad a part of the IAU community as possible in the decision-making process to give this Resolution the best chance to be passed.’ Below are the full texts of “IAU Resolution 5a for GA-XXVI”, “IAU Resolution 5b for GA-XXVI” and “IAU Resolution 6a for GA-XXVI” and “IAU Resolution 6b for GAXXVI”. The voting will take place in four steps. The voting on these Resolutions is expected to end today (Thursday 24 August 2006) between 15:30 and 16:00 CEST. This is a rough estimate.”
Prague was officially celebrating daylight savings time (CEST) from March 26 until October 29 of 2006. The official program says the aftersoon session “will be held 14:00 Thursday 24 August.” If the meeting began exactly at 2 PM CEDT, the time of the vote would have been about 3:44:29 CEDT according to the video, which is consistent with the official program statement that the voting on these Resolutions is expected to end today (Thursday 24 August 2006) between 15:30 and 16:00 CEST. This is a rough estimate.” However, the news release by Robert Britt at 9:35 ET = 3:35 PM CEST establishes an earlier time for the vote.
If the posting by Robert Britt for some reason has an inaccurate time, then the time suggested by Maggie Hyde could possibly be correct. Here is the chart for Maggie Hyde’s estimate of 3:44:39 PM CEDT.
In this chart for 3:44:29 pm CEDT, Pluto lies in the 1st house conjunct the Part of Fortune. Jupiter, which disposes Pluto, is now in the 11th house rather than the angular 10th.
Mars still rules the 4th house of home and family and still applies to square Pluto, symbolizing his being kicked out of the family of classical planets (in the scientific sense of the word “classical”). Mars now occupies the 9th house of science, and it was the astronomers who decided to demote Pluto.
Mercury still rules the 9th house of science and trines Pluto in the 1st from the 8th house of death. Mercury at 23 Leo 32 is still conjunct the Hellenistic Part of Eros, which is now at 22 Leo 48.
Venus rules the Midheaven and now trines the Ascendant from the 8th house, perhaps symbolizing Pluto’s change of status and the death of the idea of Pluto as a major planet.