March 13, 2009 at 3:02 AM ET
You win some, you lose some: That truism goes for planets as well as presidents. Pluto may have lost an election at the International Astronomical Union's general assembly almost three years ago, but it won the backing of the Illinois Senate last month.
Lawmakers approved a resolution that re-establishes Pluto's full planetary status as it "passes overhead through Illinois' night skies." The resolution sets today aside as "Pluto Day" in Illinois. March 13 is singled out because it's the 79th anniversary of the announcement that Pluto had been discovered.
Pluto's discoverer, Clyde Tombaugh, was born in Streator, Ill., which explains why Illinois' state senators felt a special need to mark the occasion. In his later years, Tombaugh lived in New Mexico, where March 13 was similarly designated "Pluto Planet Day" in 2007.
The debate over the status of Pluto and the solar system's other smaller planets continues to this day. Illinois' resolution may be nonbinding - but come to think of it, so was the IAU's. So if you're looking for something to celebrate, raise a glass to Pluto today. Then, have a nice piece of pi tomorrow. (And while you're in a festive mood, sing "Happy Birthday, Dear Albert" as well.)
Update for noon ET: I've come across two more reasons to celebrate. First, the NASA probe that's bound for Pluto in 2015, known as New Horizons, has started sending back pictures of Neptune's moon, Triton. That's particularly interesting for the New Horizons team because Triton is Neptune's largest moon, spinning in a direction that's completely different from that of its adoptive parent planet. The current thinking is that Triton is a bigger cousin of Pluto's that broke out of the icy Kuiper Belt and was somehow captured in Neptunian orbit. Thus, studying Triton can yield insights into what Pluto is like as well.
This month also marks the 20th anniversary of the conception of the World Wide Web. Back in March 1989, CERN researcher Tim Berners-Lee, submitted a little paper called "Information Management: A Proposal" to Mike Sendall, his manager. Sendall was intrigued enough to write a note on the document's cover - "Vague, but exciting" - and gave Berners-Lee the go-ahead to follow up on the research. As a result, the first baby Web was born in 1990.
Twenty years later, working on the Web is still vague, but exciting. To see how far the Web has come since then, check out CERNland, the European research center's new portal site for kids.