Pluto(id) is Back, Baby!

Things may be looking up for Pluto, which got stripped of its planetary status two years ago. Astronomers are going to name distant bodies of its size "plutoids":

From now on all similar distant bodies in the solar system will be called "plutoids." That's the decision by the International Astronomical Union, which met last week in Oslo, Norway, and announced the decision Wednesday.

The same group raised a cosmic fuss when it demoted the once-ninth planet to "dwarf" status in 2006. The new policy allows Pluto to be the standard for a whole new category of dwarf planets.

Pluto is one of only two plutoids, the other being Eris. Both are objects that circle the sun and are too small to be considered planets, but big enough to have a level of gravity that keeps them in a near spherical shape. Plutoids also must be farther from the sun than Neptune.

It was the 2003 discovery of Eris -- a body bigger and farther from the sun than Pluto -- that eventually led to Pluto's demotion. But the astronomers expect more plutoids to be discovered in the future.

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