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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, Ph.D., is a contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she tackles topics like spaceflight, diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc (opens in new tab). in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Her latest book, NASA Leadership Moments, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.