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Around 2,500 scientists and astronomers are meeting in Prague to discuss Pluto

Pluto has been surrounded by controversy since it was spotted in 1930 by US astronomer Clyde Tombaugh.  The main debate around the small planet is whether or not it truly qualifies to be a planet.  To help settle the debate, or further complicate the situation, the International Astronomical Union is going to meet to decide Pluto's fate during a 12-day meeting.  The 2,500 astronomers from 75 countries are meeting to speak about planets.  As many as 14 "planet-like" bodies may need to be considered if the panel of scientists and astronomers decides that Pluto will remain a planet.  One alternative that is being considered is for the union to demote Pluto into its own category -- which would leave Earth's solar system with only eight planets.

Large planet-like bodies located in the Kuiper belt has caused some confusion for astronomers.  The largest body in the Kuiper belt, 2003 UB313, has a diameter of almost 1,490 kilometers, which is around 110 kilometers larger than Pluto's diameter.  Along with 2003 UB313, there are several other bodies that could technically be classified as planets.  The size, location, formation method and orbital characteristics may now be included in the new definition of a planet.  The 10th major body in our solar system, for example, is larger than Pluto but has not been classified a planet either.

A new and easier way to define what a planet is will be released on Wednesday.  The meeting in Prague opens today and is scheduled to last 12 days.  Earlier this year scientists using the Hubble telescope discovered that Pluto has two additional large orbiting bodies around it




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