Is this really the end for Pluto?
The former ninth planet was demoted yet again Thursday when scientists determined it no longer even reigns as king of the dwarf planets, a sub-class astronomers relegated Pluto to last summer after deeming it unworthy of standing alongside Earth, Jupiter and other larger bodies.
The bigger dwarf planet, Eris, is 27 percent more massive than Pluto, California Institute of Technology scientists reported in the journal Science. One of them, Michael Brown, led the discovery of Eris in 2003 that precipitated a reconsideration of the solar system's familiar nine planets.
"I think this result definitely cements Pluto's demotion into the dwarf planet category," said Patricia Reiff, a Rice University astronomer and director of the Rice Space Institute. "There was an outcry in the beginning, but I think it's died down."
The International Astronomical Union will reconvene in two years.
Harvard University professor emeritus of astronomy and history of science Owen Gingerich said he's still hopeful Pluto can get some recognition if it cannot be restored to its former status.
"I think these icy bodies beyond Neptune will eventually be known as Plutonians, thereby giving some nod to the historical status of Pluto," he said.