Pluto Planethood Debate Tonight! Here's How to Watch Online

Pluto used to be a full-fledged planet, and then in 2006 it wasn't. But the debate over  its status continues, and you can watch one discussion live tonight. 

The International Astronomical Union's 2006 decision to demote Pluto to a "dwarf planet" takes center stage in a debate at 8 p.m. EDT (0000 April 30 GMT) by the Philosophical Society of Washington in Washington, D.C. You can watch live here, in the window above, or directly from the PSW Science group here.

Alan Stern, the principal investigator of the New Horizons mission that flew past Pluto in 2015, has been a fierce advocate of Pluto remaining a planet. He will battle it out with Ron Ekers, a past president of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) who led the organisation from 2003 to 2006, when Pluto's demotion occurred. The IAU is the international body that governs the naming of celestial objects.

Stern will discuss what he sees as scientific issues surrounding the definition for the term "planet," and he will propose a newer definition that is more inclusive of small bodies such as Pluto. Ekers will argue in favor of the IAU definition, which has a distinct taxonomy for little worlds that are far out in the solar system in a region known as the Kuiper Belt.

The push to give planethood back to Pluto accelerated after the New Horizons flyby of the object, which revealed that Pluto had mountains, vast seas and other complex features. Stern argues that its geology is more reminiscent of a planet's than a smaller world's geology. 

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: