It seems that size does matter in space, and the downgrading of Pluto to a mere “dwarf planet” has put teachers, publishers and toy manufacturers into a bit of a spin. We will all now have to adjust to the fact that our solar system has only eight official planets and not nine. This was the decision of the International Astronomical Union, meeting in Prague to reclassify Pluto and put an end to years of debate over what exactly is a planet.
Scientist Jocelyn Bell Burell said: “The recommendation is that we consider Pluto and other similar trans-Neptunian objects to be in a special class of which Pluto was the first to be discovered.”
Pluto’s discovery was in 1930 but the rapid development of more powerful telescopes has revealed several similar masses.
Michael Shara, curator at New York’s Natural History Museum said: “This decision in fact affects the way we look at the evolution of our solar system. The reason Pluto isn’t a planet is because Pluto doesn’t control the gravity and the orbits of all the objects near it.”
Smaller than several moons, Pluto, the dwarf planet, is due to be reached by a US unmanned spacecraft in the year 2015.