I heard a rumor, more like a bit of unsustained information that took a while to reach me, given my distance from the only human-inhabited world. Yes, even here on the far end of things we do get news, even if it does take an unending amount of time to reach us.
But that aside, the big news is that something called New Horizons is on its way here. I heard it from Neptune, the last time he had swung when he had swung by in the kind of elliptical orbit that we have in common. And he took some time out to share the news with me.
He had heard it from Saturn who had been recently visited by an unmanned probe called Voyager. He shrugged, too, and thought "Whatever that is,' he thought.
What puzzled him the most about all of this unprecedented attention; after all as the proverbial red-haired step-child among the planets, Pluto had more or less resigned himself to being the forgotten kid among the bigger heavy-weights in the Sol System.
Speaking of attention, Saturn had told Neptune that Voyager had spent most of its time using its array of instrumentation and scanners on Saturn's overlapping rings.
They were nice rings, as rings went' thought Pluto absently to itself, wondering if somewhere deep within its formative history it had ever once possessed rings myself. Somewhere deep in the memory of the tectonic shifting plates of my surface, perhaps buried underneath metric tons of ice and rock, there were the primal building blocks that had once formed rings. Clouds, water vapor, methane, what have you. And if it had once existed what was to say that it could not exist again? These might be nothing more than a dream of rock, water, and ice and a mix of atmospheric gases percolating through my very cold and very melancholy brain but there my dreams and I would own to them.
If so, my ings would have been a much more tastefully muted shades of blue and white and gray, maybe a little mauve for color and contrast. Something that would allow its small but no less grand aspect to shine out in the velvet black of space scattered with a multitude of stars.
Jupiter had even been visited and then only to probe its Great Red Spot. This was a highly concentrated and tempestuous sector of the giant gas planet that was highly visible from the vacuum of space regardless
on which approach vector one viewed it from. I'd only seen it in passing and it was more a vivid red with streaks of other colors swimming through its gigantic maw. As massive as that great red spot was as tiny as my own mass was in contrast I was very glad that my orbit never brought me within its gravitational pull.
Neptune, who could sometimes be obtuse, even when he meant well, and he does mean well, he and I are friends after all, seemed to sense a little of this and quickly switched back to the subject of the New Horizons mission, and not wanting to miss this opportunity, Pluto inquired if Neptune knew anything else about this New Horizons thing.
"What is it? Where did it come from? What does it want?"
Neptune, gave a little shudder that was the equivalent of a storm passing across its surface, and considered these questions, at last replying. "All I can tell you for sure that all of the probes, that's what they think of themselves as, are unmanned. Which implies that these things originate from somewhere else. Perhaps out beyond the asteroid belt, if you believe Jupiter...." Neptune trailed off.
"You don't believe him?" asked Pluto.
"No, no, it's not that. It's just, well, You how Jupiter can be: throwing his weight around, and that's a lot of mass. It's just with Jupiter he's got a reputation for resorting to hyperbole and, you gotta sift through all of that to get to the important stuff."
"Yeah, yeah, okay, I get it. It's from far away. It's like that every day here. Long nights and short days, and don't get me started on cold."
"Preaching to the choir, brother!" exclaimed Neptune. All that aside, these visits aren't random. I think someone is trying to contact the outer planets. Why I can't say for certain. But it's progress, up until now has been very slow, but just recently it's begun to pick up speed."
"How long before it arrives here?" Pluto asked more than a little apprehensive now.
"If it maintains it's current course and speed," Neptune replied. "I'd say within the next four solar cycles."
"Soon, then," mused Pluto.
"Yeah, and I've been talking to Saturn too, whenever he's in the mood for talking, aloof old coot, anyway, the transmissions have been garbled, but from what I've been able to sort out, is that suddenly we've become of interest to the people who inhabit the 3rd rock from the sun."
Pluto mused on this for a bit. "Hmm, I don't often get out that way. That is the one with the breathable atmosphere, isn't it?" He really was only familiar with the outer planets and the ones closer to the sun were often too busy and too far out on their traditional orbital trajectories for him to get a chance and get to know them better; and that Mercury was the hottest, and Venus was vain about her appearance. After all, the amiable Neptune got more of chance to find out the news of the Solar System and did not want to appear less worldly and out-going Neptune and come off like a complete naïve newbie.
"Yeah, if you were a carbon-based life-form, which I think the creators and senders of that probe are," Pluto replied. "At least that Saturn's theory. And he may be a lot of things, including a dull conversationalist, but he's an excellent theorist."
"What was his theory exactly?" Pluto asked.
"You might like this, Pluto, my friend, and you might want to chat up those moons of yours," Neptune trailed off significantly. He fondly regarded Pluto as his friend and meant him well, but all the same, he was aching for new sensations and new experiences and did so like to be the one in the know, and be the one to share it before anyone else beat him to the punch.
"What is it? Tell me!" Pluto implored even as he made a mental to check with Charon and his other moon.
"Well, it seems that you get re-named and re-classified."
"I wasn't aware that I have to be classified as anything," Pluto scoffed.
"Well, I don't know, but I really have to be going. Goodbye and Good Luck, my friend, no matter what happens. I'll be swinging back this way soon enough, so keep me posted; won't you!" And with that Neptune
Pluto was left with wondering what the future would hold for him and what he would do once this New Horizons probe arrived. He felt both apprehensive and intrigued at the possibilities.