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Scientists’ new definition of “planet” includes Pluto — and at least a 100 other objects in the solar system.
Kirby Runyon, a doctoral student in earth and planetary sciences at Johns Hopkins University, was a member of the team that analyzed New Horizons’ geologic data during the flyby. “I was blown away by how beautiful and geologically diverse Pluto and its satellite Charon are,” Runyon says.
Once he’d seen this side of Pluto, Runyon was bothered that it wasn’t a full-fledged planet anymore. “If you don’t call a round world a ‘planet,’ it just falls off people’s mental radar,” he says. “There is a psychological power to the word ‘planet’ that helps people realize it’s an important place in space.”
One expert suggests that 2,000 objects could exist in the 'Kuiper Belt', a ring of icy comets and dwarf stars beyond Pluto.
A group of astronomers this week will debate whether to relabel many of these objects as they put forward a new classification.
This could reclassify as many as 102 Kuiper Belt objects as planets - including Pluto - taking the solar system's total to 110.