A planetary mnemonic refers to a phrase created to remember the planets and dwarf planets of the Solar System, with the order of words corresponding to increasing sidereal periods of the bodies. One simple visual mnemonic is to hold out both hands side-by-side with thumbs in the same direction (typically left-hand facing palm down, and right-hand palm up). The fingers of hand with palm down represent the terrestrial planets where the left pinkie represents Mercury and its thumb represents the asteroid belt, including Ceres. The other hand represents the giant planets, with its thumb representing trans-Neptunian objects, including Pluto.

A representation of the above method with the left hand representing the terrestrial planets and the right hand, with palm turned upward, is representing the giant planets along with TNOs

Nine planets edit

Before 2006, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto were considered as planets. Below are partial list of these mnemonics:

  • "Men Very Easily Make Jugs Serve Useful Needs, Perhaps" – The structure of this sentence, which is current in the 1950s, suggests that it may have originated before Pluto's discovery. It can easily be trimmed back to reflect Pluto's demotion to dwarf planet.
  • "My Very Educated (or Eager) Mother Just Served Us Nine Potatoes (or Pizzas)"
  • "My Very Elegant Mother Just Sat Upon Nine Porcupines"[1]
  • "My Very Energetic Mother Jumps Skateboards Under Nana's Patio"
  • "Mary's violet eyes make Johnnie stay up nights pondering"[2]
  • "My Very Easy Method Just Shows Us Nine Planets"
  • "My Very Efficient Memory Just Stores Up Nine Planets"
  • "My Very Easy Method Just Speeds Up Naming Planets"[3]

With the IAU's 2006 definition of planet which reclassified Pluto as a dwarf planet, along with Ceres and Eris, these mnemonics became obsolete.

Eight planets edit

When Pluto's significance was changed to dwarf planet, mnemonics could no longer include the final "P". The first notable suggestion came from Kyle Sullivan of Lumberton, Mississippi, USA, whose mnemonic was published in the Jan. 2007 issue of Astronomy magazine: "My Violent Evil Monster Just Scared Us Nuts".[4] In August 2006, for the eight planets recognized under the new definition,[5] Phyllis Lugger, professor of astronomy at Indiana University suggested the following modification to the common mnemonic for the nine planets: "My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nachos". She proposed this mnemonic to Owen Gingerich, Chair of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Planet Definition Committee and published the mnemonic in the American Astronomical Society Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy Bulletin Board on August 25, 2006.[6] It also appeared in Indiana University's IU News Room Star Trak on August 30, 2006.[7] This mnemonic is used by the IAU on their website for the public.[8]

Others angry at the IAU's decision to "demote" Pluto composed sarcastic mnemonics in protest:

  • "Many Very Educated Men Justify Stealing Unique Ninth" – found in Schott's Miscellany by Ben Schott.[9]
  • "Many Very Educated Men Just Screwed Up Nature" – this mnemonic is mentioned by Mike Brown, who discovered Eris.[10]
  • One particular 9 planet mnemonic, "My very easy memory jingle seems useful naming planets", was easily changed once the demotion occurred, becoming the 8 planet mnemonic, "My very easy memory jingle seems useless now".
  • Another mnemonic which was changed from 9 to 8 planets was , "Most Very Elderly Men Just Slept Under Newspapers".[citation needed] Slightly risque versions include, "Mary's 'Virgin' Explanation Made Joseph Suspect Upstairs Neighbor".[11]

Eleven planets and dwarf planets edit

In 2007, the National Geographic Society sponsored a contest for a new mnemonic of MVEMCJSUNPE, incorporating the then-eleven known planets and dwarf planets, including Eris, Ceres, and the newly demoted Pluto. On February 22, 2008, "My Very Exciting Magic Carpet Just Sailed Under Nine Palace Elephants", coined by 10-year-old Maryn Smith of Great Falls, Montana, was announced as the winner.[12] The phrase was featured in the song 11 Planets by Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter Lisa Loeb and in the book 11 Planets: A New View of the Solar System by David Aguilar (ISBN 978-1426302367).[13]

Thirteen planets and dwarf planets edit

Since the National Geographic competition, two additional bodies were designated as dwarf planets, Makemake and Haumea, on July 11 and September 17, 2008 respectively. A 2015 New York Times article suggested some mnemonics including, "My Very Educated Mother Cannot Just Serve Us Nine Pizzas—Hundreds May Eat!"[14] Another more jocular example is "My Very Earnest Mother Can Just Sit Under a Napkin, Plus Her Mom Eris!"

Longer mnemonics will be required in the future, if more of the possible dwarf planets are recognized as such by the IAU. However, at some point enthusiasm for new mnemonics will wane as the number of dwarf planets exceeds the number that people will want to learn (it is estimated that there may be up to 200 dwarf planets).[15]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ "My Very Elegant Mother Just Sat Upon Nine Porcupines". www.rocemabra.com. Retrieved 2019-10-10.
  2. ^ Beatty, Kelly (2008-02-28). "Of Planets and Palace Elephants". SkyandTelescope.com. Archived from the original on 2013-02-02. Retrieved 2008-09-16.
  3. ^ Garfoot, Ash (May 2000). "Ash Garfoot (May 2000)". www.facebook.com. Retrieved 2020-09-25.
  4. ^ "Physics 110 Astronomy Mnemonics". www.csub.edu/Physics. Archived from the original on 2012-01-18.
  5. ^ "International Astronomical Union, iau0603 -- Press Release, IAU 2006 General Assembly: Result of the IAU Resolution votes, 24 August 2006". Retrieved 2016-01-30.
  6. ^ "American Astronomical Society Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy Bulletin Board, August 25, 2006". Archived from the original on 2016-05-07. Retrieved 2016-01-30.
  7. ^ "Indiana University, IU News Room, Star Trak, August 30, 2006". Retrieved 2016-01-30.
  8. ^ "Pluto and the Developing Landscape of Our Solar System, Questions and Answers". International Astronomical Union, IAU for the Public. Retrieved 2016-01-30.
  9. ^ Schott, Ben (2008). Schott's Miscellany 2009. New York: Bloomsbury USA. p. 77. ISBN 978-1-59691-382-0.
  10. ^ "Julia Sweeney and Michael E. Brown". Armand Hammer. 2007. Archived from the original on 2008-10-06. Retrieved 2009-12-14.
  11. ^ "XKCD Presents: Some New Science Mnemonics".
  12. ^ "National Geographic Children's Books Announces Winner of New Planetary Mnemonic". Archived from the original on March 6, 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-29.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  13. ^ "Planet Song". National Geographic. Archived from the original on February 24, 2012. Retrieved September 23, 2008.
  14. ^ "My Very Educated Readers, Please Write Us a New Planet Mnemonic". The New York Times. January 20, 2015. Retrieved June 20, 2015.
  15. ^ "Our Solar System has 127 probable planets and 500+ possibles | NextBigFuture.com". 2018-09-08. Retrieved 2023-02-15.