Of Planets and Palace Elephants

It was bad enough when, in August 2006, members of the International Astronomical Union decided to remove Pluto from the pantheon of major planets. Worse, Ceres and Eris got tossed into the fray.

Now how are we supposed to remember the planets in order? The tried-and-true mnemonic "My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas" doesn't, in the IAU's eyes, cut it anymore. Oh, I suppose you could substitute "Nachos" for the "Nine Pizzas," but still . . .

11 planets
An illustration from 11 Planets: A New View of the Solar System.
David Aguilar / National Geographic
Thankfully, National Geographic has come to the rescue. Last year its books-for-kids division sponsored a contest for a nifty way to recall Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Ceres, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, and Eris in order. I would have entered, but I'm older than 14.

The winner, announced this week, is 10-year-old Maryn Smith of Great Falls, Montana. Her fourth-grade class at Riverview Elementary School cooked up a bunch of clever phrases, but in the end the class voted to submit Maryn's entry — which was "My Very Exciting Magic Carpet Just Sailed Under Nine Palace Elephants." Hers was selected from about 800 other submissions.

As you can imagine, the mnew mnemonic was big mnews in central Montana. It also gets a prominent mention in David Aguilar's book 11 Planets: A New View of the Solar System (just published by National Geographic) and in a song on Lisa Loeb's soon-to-be-released album for children.

Care to match wits with a 10-year-old? Try your hand at crafting a planet mnemonic of your own and put it in the comments below. You get extra credit if it makes sense with — and without — the inclusion of Ceres, Pluto, and Eris.

7 thoughts on “Of Planets and Palace Elephants

  1. Peter RowenPete R

    It may be a bit of a stretch, but do I get extra extra credit for making a commentary on the IAU’s decision-making process?

    Many Very Educated Men (Callously) Junked Simplicity, Undoing Neatness(, Proceeding Erratically)

All comments must follow the Sky & Telescope Terms of Use and will be moderated prior to posting. Please be civil in your comments. Sky & Telescope reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter’s username, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.