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    On August 24, 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) decided Pluto would no longer hold planetary status. The decision by the IAU identifies the basic properties celestial objects will have to have before they can be considered planets.

    The new definition for a planet has been is: "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." For now, there will be eight planets in our solar system: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Pluto is automatically disqualified because it has not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit. Pluto is in an area known as the Kuiper belt which contains many other objects the size of Pluto in this same area.

    Instead, Pluto will be reclassified in a new category of "dwarf planets," similar to what long have been termed "minor planets." The definition also lays out a third class of lesser objects that orbit the sun -- "small solar system bodies," a term that will apply to numerous asteroids, comets and other natural satellites.

    The decision at the IAU conference of 2,500 astronomers from 75 countries was a remarkable shift from previous discussions, when the group's leaders suggested a proposal that would have reaffirmed Pluto's planetary status as well as made planets of its largest moon and two other objects. That plan proved highly unpopular and led to days of debate, leading to Pluto's reclassification.

    Now two of the objects that could have come out of this conference as confirmed planets will join Pluto as dwarfs: the asteroid Ceres, which was a planet in the 1800s before its status changed to an asteroid; and 2003 UB313, an icy object slightly larger than Pluto whose discoverer, Michael Brown of the California Institute of Technology, has nicknamed "Xena." Charon, the largest of Pluto's three moons, is no longer under consideration for any special designation.

    This decision is quite controversial, changing the classification of our planets that we have known for the past 76 years. Do you think Pluto should be still considered a planet? Do you agree with the development of smaller classifications of planets? Share your thoughts in the Opinion Corner forum.

     
    Image of Pluto. Image credit: NASA.
     
    Pluto, center and it's previously known moon Charon, below Pluto and right of center, shine brightly. Two more moons appear more faintly to the right of the pair. Image credit: NASA.

    AuthorComment
    Kelly Schlaak
    Teacher

    United South Central High Scho
    Wells, Minnesota
    8/31/2006 2:49:11 PM
    Re: The Great Pluto Debate
    disagree, once a planet, always a planet
    Mackenzie
    Student

    Maple School District
    Poplar, Wisconsin
    10/17/2006 2:29:02 PM
    Re: The Great Pluto Debate
    We've learned all our life about the cute little planet named Pluto. Once a planet always a planet.
    Abbie
    Student

    Maple School District
    Poplar, Wisconsin
    10/17/2006 2:31:39 PM
    Re: The Great Pluto Debate
    Pluto was and always will be a planet so it still should be. This is an object as big as if not bigger than an asteroid and our moon.
    If you or someone else disagrees, then that's your opinion, but my opinion is that Pluto is a planet and always should be!
    Demo Account
    Guest Teacher

    Space Explorers, Inc.
    De Pere, Wisconsin
    10/17/2006 3:24:33 PM
    Re: The Great Pluto Debate
    Science means changing our ideas when new evidence is collected. New technology is helping us to discover more and more objects orbiting our star. Planet needed redefining in order to have our star system classifications make sense.
    Demo Account
    Guest Teacher

    Space Explorers, Inc.
    De Pere, Wisconsin
    10/17/2006 3:25:19 PM
    Re: The Great Pluto Debate
    Pluto has two natural satellites. Pluto was created approxiamtely the same time as the other planets. Pluto orbits the sun in a regular pattern, albeit odd. Only 4% of the group of 9000 members made this decision. This not enough of the population to make this type of decision.
    Sam
    Student

    Maple School District
    Poplar, Wisconsin
    1/4/2007 11:00:09 AM
    Re: The Great Pluto Debate
    I think there is no reason for them not to consider pluto a planet. It's a cute little planet!
    Collin
    Student

    West Elementary
    East Rochester, Ohio
    1/23/2007 8:44:10 AM
    Re: The Great Pluto Debate
    I don't care what the reasearch says I kinda like pluto. I think some other people out their like it. I think pluto should known as a planet not as a dwarf planet.Even if it's real small.
    Clarissa D.
    Student

    Tanana Junior High School
    Fairbanks, Alaska
    1/23/2007 8:45:33 AM
    Re: The Great Pluto Debate
    I think that they have no reason to not include "Pluto" as a planet! To me thats dumb and I'd say that it's a little too late to not include Pluto because I'm sure that almost all the kids have learned about that planet and they could get confused!
    Sierra L.
    Student

    Tanana Junior High School
    Fairbanks, Alaska
    1/23/2007 8:45:44 AM
    Re: The Great Pluto Debate
    we need IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Sally Kookesh
    Teacher

    Angoon Elementary School
    Angoon, Alaska
    1/23/2007 8:46:15 AM
    Re: The Great Pluto Debate
    Changing the status of Pluto was debated by a reputable number of astronomers and I will trust their judgement. Our Galaxy is always changing. Who knows, another planet may take its place in the future.
    Jacob
    Student

    Maple School District
    Poplar, Wisconsin
    1/30/2007 11:57:58 AM
    Re: The Great Pluto Debate
    Scientists have concluded that Pluto is small. I think we all know its small, so why consider it not a planet? Besides, the fact that Pluto was discovered quite early in history compared with other bodies out there near it, and the fact that it has it's own moon gives me absolutely no reason to think Pluto is not a planet. Once a planet always a planet.
    Marie Pool
    Teacher

    Clinton High School
    Clinton, Oklahoma
    2/2/2007 8:13:19 AM
    Re: The Great Pluto Debate
    Scientific knowledge increases every day! Let's keep Pluto as a planet in our solar system for a few thousand years then decide if we want to change its status as a planet. Maybe by then we will have enough information to really decide, "Pluto - - - planet or not?"
    Delaney
    Student

    Tudor Elementary School
    Anchorage, Alaska
    2/15/2007 10:51:18 AM
    Re: The Great Pluto Debate
    I think that Pluto should be a planet! As well as planet X!
    Jose
    Guest Student

    Spring Hill Elementary
    Anchorage, Alaska
    3/5/2007 8:32:29 AM
    Re: The Great Pluto Debate
    I really don't think pluto should be a planet because it just doesn't look like one, and I think it should be a moon.
    Bria
    Guest Student

    Spring Hill Elementary
    Anchorage, Alaska
    3/5/2007 8:32:58 AM
    Re: The Great Pluto Debate
    Pluto shouldn't be a planet because it's way too small!
    Student
    Student

    Washington Elementary, Harold
    Chicago, Illinois
    3/5/2007 9:17:08 AM
    Re: The Great Pluto Debate
    This is very good information that I could use on the I.S.A.T test. P.S THANK YOU!
    T.
    Student

    Clay High School
    West Portsmouth, Ohio
    3/8/2007 8:19:11 AM
    Re: The Great Pluto Debate
    we should keep pluto planet because we have little poems and stuff to remember our planets in order...without pluto it would be My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Noodles.....I don't like noodles
    Devontae
    Student

    Neal Math Science Academy
    North Chicago, Illinois
    5/22/2007 10:23:17 AM
    Re: The Great Pluto Debate
    I think that pluto should be a planet because what if there are lifeforms on the there, and we find them. Then what, are we just going to add it back to the planet list again?
    Willa Branham
    Teacher

    Madison Academy
    Madison, Florida
    8/22/2007 2:46:21 PM
    Re: The Great Pluto Debate
    We all grew up with Pluto as a planet and nothing has changed. It should still be considered a planet.
    Jennifer
    Student

    Bagnall Elementary School
    Groveland, Massachusetts
    11/28/2007 12:07:19 PM
    Re: The Great Pluto Debate
    pluto should be considered a planet

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