• On Sunday, 5-year-old Jenna Bayless signs her name on the Farewell to Pluto card at the Kansas Cosmosphereand Space Center. Jenna and her family came to the Cosmosphere from Ellsworth to participate in activities involving the former ninth planet, and the Space Shuttle Atlantis launch. About 100 area residents attended the event.

Goodbye Pluto: Cosmosphere visitors sign card for former planet

Monday, August 28, 2006

His message said it all.

"Goodbye, little dog," Geoffrey Bayless scribbled on a card, offering condolences to the now nonexistent planet, Pluto.

On Sunday, the Ellsworth resident and his family attended activities and a briefing on Pluto, which recently was dumped by astronomers from the list of nine planets in the solar system, at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center.

About 100 local and regional residents attended a Pluto information session led by Cosmosphere educator and astronomy specialist Justin Bartel. They also offered their goodbyes by signing a "Farewell to Pluto" poster and made beaded Solar System key chains - featuring the eight remaining planets.

"We always knew that Pluto was the odd ball," Bartel told the crowd.

But, he warned, the debate surrounding its status as a planet remains, he said.

pluto082806On Sunday, 5-year-old Jenna Bayless signs her name on the Farewell to Pluto card at the Kansas Cosmosphereand Space Center. Jenna and her family came to the Cosmosphere from Ellsworth to participate in activities involving the former ninth planet, and the Space Shuttle Atlantis launch. About 100 area residents attended the event. Photo by Amy Conkling

Bayless said he didn't mind the astronomers' decision. In fact, he said it made memorizing the planets "a lot easier" for the up-and-coming grade school students. Future students like his little sister, 5-year-old Jenna, who also signed her name on the goodbye card.

Other visitors took the decision a little harder.

Wichita resident Jeanne Kroeker and her son Matthew, 5, signed their names on the card as one last goodbye not only to the planet, but also to table decorations.

"We have placemats with Pluto on them," Jeanne Kroeker said. "They're going to be obsolete now."

Bartel's wife, Amy, even had her reservations.

"I think they should of just left Pluto," she said. "I was joking with Justin and saying he should have handed out white-out during his presentation for all of the kids to use in their textbooks. He keeps telling me that science is always changing, and you have to keep up with it - that's what you have to do."

Cosmosphere visitors also built and launched air-powered rockets on Sunday in celebration of the Space Shuttle Atlantis launch in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

The launch originally was scheduled for Sunday afternoon, but NASA officials delayed it because of weather conditions. As of Sunday afternoon, officials did not know whether or not the launch would happen this week because of Tropical Storm Ernesto.