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Are We There Yet? Podcast

The great Pluto debate reignites once more

Just 15 minutes after its closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft looked back toward the sun and captured this near-sunset view of the rugged, icy mountains and flat ice plains extending to Pluto's horizon. Photo: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Back in 2006, a science organization changed the classification of Pluto as a planet, sparking a debate in both the astronomical community and pop culture. More than 15 years later, a new paper is reigniting that debate.

The International Astronomical Union is responsible for classifying and naming celestial bodies. By changing the definition of planet back in 2006, the organization essentially downgraded Pluto from planet to dwarf planet.

Florida Space Institute planetary scientist Philip Metzger co-authored a new paper taking a fresh look at the decision — and he’s urging the IAU to reconsider its definition.

The story of the IAU’s decision reads like a political thriller and dates back more than 100 years of planetary history. Metzger joins the show to talk about the secrecy, intrigue and historical context of Pluto’s planethood and why the IAU’s decision matters to science.

This episode was produced with assistance from WMFE intern Beatriz Oliveira. 

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Brendan Byrne

About Brendan Byrne

Space Reporter and 'Are We There Yet?' Host

Brendan covers space news for WMFE, everything from rocket launches to the latest scientific discoveries in our universe. He hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration. Brendan is a native Floridian, born and raised in Broward County. He moved to ... Read Full Bio »