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Pluto to be at its brightest this year on Friday

2012/06/29 19:59:12

Taipei, June 29 (CNA) Pluto, once among the nine planets in the solar system but removed from the family in 2006, will reach its closest approach to the Earth this year on Friday, the Taipei Astronomical Museum said.

The dwarf planet -- smaller in size and mass than a planet -- will remain extremely distant from earth, but its approach will make observations for those with high-powered telescopes easier, the museum said.

Pluto will look slightly brighter when it reaches the opposite side of the sun as seen from Earth, said museum assistant researcher Chang Kuei-lan, but she warned that it will require some expertise to find the small star.

She advised amateur astronomers to first identify the brighter Sagittarius near Pluto.

Pluto was downgraded from its status as a planet during the International Astronomical Union's 2006 assembly as more stars of its kind had been found in recent years, prompting doubts over Pluto's status because it was much smaller and lighter than existing planets.

Describing the finding of Dwarf Planet Eris in 2003 as "the straw that breaks the camel's back," Chang said opposition voices to Pluto as a planet emerged because Eris is similar to Pluto in many ways -- not to mention that it is larger and heavier.

"Pluto is insignificant compared with other planets," she said. "But it used to be a brother of the Earth, and tonight is a time for people to take a closer look of it."

(By Lee Hsin-Yin)