February 12, 2014: Pluto

Most people who are now adults were taught there were nine planets in our solar system: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Then in 2006, as Robert Irion, who directs the Science Communication Program at the University of California at Santa Cruz wrote for, “Pluto was downgraded to ‘dwarf planet’ by some stuffy folks at the International Astronomical Union.”

Obviously Irion thinks dissing Pluto was the wrong thing to do, and he predicts those scientists will be shown up in 17 short months. Irion predicts that on July 14, 2015, when the New Horizons spacecraft “whips past Pluto” (traveling faster than 30,000 miles per hour), the true “impact of Pluto” will be seen.

This isn’t about science, though, it’s about business opportunity. Irion believes Pluto (which he dubs the “beloved not-quite-planet”) is “about to become the star of our solar system.” In fact he predicts, “The up-close photos of Pluto…will be the most popular astronomical images of a generation. Screensavers, posters, live TV, Twitpics, you name it-Pluto will be everywhere.”

Many people were appalled when Pluto lost its planetary status and will be eager to show their support. There will be plenty of consumers willing to spend on clothing and other Pluto-branded merchandise. Restaurant owners take note: The frozen planet (at least we assume it’s encased in ice; Irion says Pluto’s surface temperatures are about -400 degrees) could lend its name to tasty frozen treats or beverages.

Irion believes “Pluto rules.” And for at least a short time in 2015 (it’s never too early to prepare), Pluto may indeed rule for entrepreneurs.