Pluto likely to remain a 'dwarf planet'

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Washington, August 1 (ANI): A group of astronomers might be pushing for Pluto to be given back the status of a 'planet', but many experts feel that the definition will remain the same, that is, of a 'dwarf planet'.

The debate surrounding the demoted planet Pluto is set to reignite as astronomers meet next week in Brazil.

The 27th general assembly of International Astronomical Union (IAU) will be the first since Pluto was stripped of its planetary status in 2006.

Despite not appearing on the official agenda, there have been rumors that Pluto supporters will push for a reopening of the debate.

After the 2006 Prague general assembly the IAU amended its definition of a planet to include a clause that stated it "has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit" of other objects such as asteroids.

This definition ruled out Pluto, along with a number of recently discovered objects such as the somewhat larger Eris, along with Makemake and Haumea.

According to a report by ABC News, Dr Nick Lomb, curator of astronomy at the Sydney Observatory, who voted for Pluto's demotion three years ago, doesn't believe the definition will change.

"I don't think there is that much support," he said. "The impression I received in Prague was that the majority were against having a large number of planets," he added.

Without the new definition, there would be an ever-expanding list of planets, which could have a detrimental effect on astronomy education, according to Lomb.

"No one would remember them and that would be a loss," he said.

"The classical planets all have history behind them and they define the solar system. If you lose their names because people can't remember them, then it would be a major loss in our cultural background," he added.

According to astronomer Dr Michael Brown of Monash University in Melbourne, the definition, while convoluted, is justified.

"The main driving force behind the definition is somewhat pragmatic, rather than scientific," said Brown.

"It's like debating about what's a hill and what's a mountain. There are clear examples of what we know are mountains and clear examples of what are hills, but where you draw the line between the two is quite arbitrary," he explained.

If the matter is again brought to a vote, Brown says he'll be voting to maintain Pluto's demotion.

"I'd probably be voting for its continued demotion. I'm not sure I want a solar system with 20-odd planets continually increasing in number," he said. (ANI)

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