Pluto's retreat

Sure, Pluto's demotion to non-planet status has startling implications for the astronomy lab. But what about predicting our romantic and financial futures?

Published August 25, 2006 10:44AM (EDT)

Even celestial bodies can be found wanting. The International Astronomical Union voted yesterday to shut Pluto out of the planets, the cliquish, newly eight-member group that took the petite wallflower under its wing in 1930. More than 70 years later, astronomers have rethought Pluto's status, alleging that the now ex-planet is too much of a "dwarf" to travel in the same circle as giants like Jupiter and the lavishly bemooned Saturn. The new rules, established this week at the IAU meeting in Prague, define a planet as "a celestial body that is in orbit around the sun, has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a ... nearly round shape, and has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit." It's this last test that Pluto fails, since its orbit overlaps with Neptune's.

The IAU's vote has rendered astronomy textbooks obsolete; seven decades' worth of science projects are suddenly off the mark. But the consequences of this new classification don't merely affect labs and classrooms, but stargazing astrologers the world over. Now that Pluto's just a marginalized ball of ice, will our luck change for the better -- or worse? Will the IAU's decision redirect our love lives? To find out, Salon phoned Cheryl Lee Terry, who writes the "Planet Terry" horoscope column for Time Out New York.

How will Pluto's demotion affect astrology?

It really doesn't matter, because there are a lot of heavenly bodies floating around that we count in our equations. Astronomers give names to planets -- we just consider them heavenly bodies that we interact with. If the astronomers want to say it's not a planet, that's great, but it's not going to change Pluto's influence. So we believe in Pluto. It's really been active. This has been a pretty bad month, and Pluto has been one of the instigators.

So Pluto helped bring about its own demise?

There's a bad aspect to Aug. 31 that comes around once every 48 years -- let me look at my calendar. Oh, that's Saturn. We've had some very bad asteroid hits in the past month. On the 17th, when the peace talks were happening, Pluto had a good meeting with the sun. But the war isn't over. [Laughs] It doesn't take an astrologer to figure that out.

It's a new moon for me today. You're the third phone call I've gotten that's good for my career. Right now for you, there are a lot of financial concerns.

Actually, that's true. My apartment was robbed on Tuesday.

Everything's all about money now. In September, you'll be feeling better about things. Security's a big issue right now for all Cancers. If I were to tell you something -- because you're young -- you want to let go of relationships small and big. Just relax your grip. How old are you?

I'm 25.

You're going into your Saturn return. You're coming into this huge change in your life. I don't know if you're leaving your job --

It's my last day interning at Salon.

You've got a really hard year ahead of you, but in a good way. It will be big challenge. It's really kind of exciting.

Wow, thanks. Getting back to Pluto, does the planet have a personality that you could describe?

He -- we call Pluto a he -- is manipulation. His personality is Machiavellian. Obsessions, compulsions, influence peddling. And the big one is transformation. When you get into a heavy Pluto stage, you're transforming your life. Pluto when he's bad is compulsive and obsessive. When he's good, he's there to transform you and push you along. He takes no prisoners. When he comes in contact with your sign, you either transform your life or learn a hard lesson.

Basically, they're changing the label, and that doesn't matter to me. Just like if you change your name, you're still the same person. We love him too much -- they can't take Pluto away from us.

By Lamar Clarkson

Lamar Clarkson is an editorial fellow at Salon.

MORE FROM Lamar Clarkson

Related Topics ------------------------------------------