In this role-playing game, inspired by Barnard College’s Reacting to the Past series, students play one of nine astronomers arguing the definition of a planet at a 1999 debate in New York City and a 2006 meeting of the International Astronomical Union.   During this game, students will do the following:

  1. Bulletcompare the history of Pluto’s discovery to that of the asteroid Ceres

  2. Bulletdescribe the properties of the Kuiper Belt and its members

  3. Bulletplot the orbital and physical properties of planets, asteroids, and comets

  4. Bulletdebate the necessity and value of scientific classifications

This game can be played be played with up to 27 students during one or two class periods as a substitute for or complement to traditional lectures on Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. It is recommended, but not required, that students have access to The Hunt for Planet X: New Worlds and the Fate of Pluto by Govert Shilling.

The Pluto Debate:

Definition of a Planet by the International Astronomical Union

Slides for Student Talks
Student Rolesheets

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Game Instructions
Planet Data Plotter

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0920441. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation (NSF).