At Lowell Observatory, Debate About Pluto Far From Over

By Mark Moran
Published: Monday, October 6, 2014 - 12:30am
Updated: Monday, October 6, 2014 - 6:05am

Pluto, the icy, rocky body formerly known as a planet, is back in the news. Scientists from all corners seem to have an option on whether it should be re-classified as a planet. There may finally be some resolution to the fuzzy debate — or, maybe not.

Pluto was discovered at Flagstaff's Lowell Observatory in 1930, and it was considered a planet until it was de-listed by the International Astronomical Union in 2006.

That’s when the technology was good enough to see that Pluto was actually part of what’s called the Kuiper Belt, a large array of gas and dust particles. If you compare the size of Pluto to Earth, it’s like a speck on a basketball.

Kevin Schindler, the communications director at Lowell, said the debate may be settled next year when the spacecraft New Horizons flies near Pluto.

“It’s going to get unprecedented images of Pluto, and you know, there are certainly things that scientists expect to find, but who knows what else they might find? Pluto could have a ring system, for instance," Schindler said.

He said could expand the debate around Pluto, rather than settle it.

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