Education and Outreach Grants Application

The DPS Committee invites DPS members to apply for this cycle of DPS Education and Outreach Grants

The DPS Committee is offering small grants (average amounts of $200 to $500) to support DPS members to engage in local and virtual education and public engagement activities. These grants are intended to support DPS member efforts to engage other members, students, teachers, and the public and can be used for materials, consumables, equipment but not for salary or travel to DPS meetings. Proposals are now being accepted. If you have a question about what is an acceptable cost, please contact the DPS Education Officer, Sanlyn Buxner, [email protected].  Proposals should be emailed to [email protected] and you will receive an email confirmation.

Applications will be accepted until all grant funds have been depleted, that cap will be posted on this website.  Grants have a rolling deadline with reviews occurring each month. Awardees will be alerted by the 15th of each month after they are received.   All proposals will be reviewed by members of the DPS education committee and the executive committee (see rubric below). Awards will be issued as a check mailed to the lead proposer. 

Each grant awardee is expected to 

  1. Allow their name, institution, and program description to be posted on the DPS website.
  2. Share a one-page summary of the event(s) with the DPS that includes at least one visual (you must have permission to have identifiable pictures of others), preferably a picture of you, and a summary of the event and participants. This will be shared on the DPS website.
  3. Present their program as a talk or poster at the next DPS meeting they attend – please note that there is an additional abstract slot reserved for education and outreach in addition to science talks/posters at the DPS meeting. 

Applications should be no more than two pages and include the following:

  1. Name, title, institution (if applicable), and contact information of the DPS member(s) applying. Emails for all are required, a phone number, and mailing address should be provided for the lead of the mini grant.
  2. Short – 1 paragraph bios of the individual or team members proposing.
  3. An overview of the program, including a timeline (subject to change due to ongoing worldwide events), and at least one outcome measure, articulating what the program is intended to achieve (this will be shared on the DPS website).
  4. A list of any partners (e.g. museum, school), if applicable.
  5. A budget of what the funding will be used for. 
  6. Identified audience and any arrangements that have been made with that audience or to reach that audience.
  7. An acknowledgment of the DPS expectations listed above.
  8. Optional, you may include pictures or other images.
  9. Email proposals to [email protected] and you will receive an email confirmation.

Rubric for scoring:

Criteria 2 1 0
Is the individual or team current members of the DPS? Yes No
Is the program well explained? Well explained program, it is clear what the team is doing Simple explanation given, not entirely clear what the program will entail No explanation or vague explanation of program
At least one goal or outcome is articulated (what is the program hoping to achieve) Goals/outcomes are clearly articulated and reasonable Outcome is articulated and is either unreasonable or unclear No goals/outcomes are articulated
Presence and quality of feedback/evaluation Appropriate evaluation or feedback mechanism is described Feedback does not align with program No feedback mechanism is identified or described
Budget and reasonableness Costs are fully described and within cost cap and reasonable Costs are not fully described or not within cost cap Costs are not described
Alignment to DPS goals to support DPS members to engage other members, students, teachers, or the public in high quality programming Program is well aligned with DPS goals Unclear if the program aligns with DPS goals Program does not support DPS member in education or outreach activities
Audience identified Audience(s) are identified and program Audience has been identified, but no arrangements have been made No specific audience is identified

Education and Outreach Grants

The DPS Committee invites DPS members to apply for DPS Education and Outreach Grants. Grants have a rolling deadline with reviews occurring each month. Awardees will be alerted by the 15th of each month after they are received. 

Instructions for applying and rubrics for reviewing are available here

Current and Past DPS Education Subcommittee Members

Contact the current Education Subcommittee members at any time with your concerns.
Brian Jackson 2023-Present Chair
Sanlyn Buxner 2017-Present 2017-2023 Chair
Christine Shupla 2019-Present
Bonnie Meinke 2014-2019 2014-2017 Chair
Jennifer A. Grier 2017-2023
Dave Klassen
Tim Livengood 2023-Present
Trudi Hoogenboom 2023-Present

Trick Or Treat And Telescopes

Resources for the host observer:

The Night Sky Network has resources for amateur astronomers and backyard star parties!  Among their resources are the Universe Discovery Guides – Each Guide contains: a story about the month’s theme, a sky feature to observe, “Try This!” section, and one or more activities to explore the theme. Each Guide can be viewed on a computer in full color. You can also download a special “Red” edition of each Guide which features a red overlay to preserve your night vision. 

There’s one for each month, and October’s is Solar System themed!


Reminder about Event Conditions: 

You know how news reports always remind people not to look at the Sun during a solar eclipse? Keep in mind some tips for Halloween safety:

  1. After dark, but want to preserve night vision? Use red lights – keeps pedestrians visible to cars w/o ruining your ability to see the stars. If you’re on a busy roadway, consider a sign to let cars know folks might be gathered and be easily blinded by headlights.
  2. Big Costumes/Masks: some costumes will not be ideal for peering through an eyepiece. Have a space to take off and store cumbersome costumes while viewing.
  3. Sticky Fingers: candy is the best, except when it gets on your optics. Baby wipes or other hand-washing station will reduce the risk to your equipment.


Related Events:

International Observe the Moon Night



(No endorsement, just doing some brainstorming!) Plus, easy shopping list reminder when you’re at the store:

  • Mars bars
  • Milky Way
  • Moon Pies
  • Starburst
  • Orbit gum
  • Eclipse gum



Discoveries in Planetary Science – Farsi

[نسخه‌ی انگلیسی] [نسخه‌ی اسپانیایی]

  • سیاره‌شناسی دانشی است که هنوز به سرعت در حال رشد است، و ممکن است پدیدار شدن این پیشرفت‌ها در درون متون دانشگاهی چندین سال به طول بیانجامد
  • این اسلایدها، در قالب سه-اسلاید برای هر مبحث، برای پوشش این فاصله ایجاد شده‌اند
  • سطح مخاطب این اسلایدها ستاره‌شناسی در سطح مقدماتی برای دانشجویان لیسانس است
  • هر مبحث از سه بخش تشکیل شده است:
    1. توضیحی از اکتشاف
    2. توصیف دانش و منطق مرتبط با اکتشاف
    3. ارایه‌ی نمایی کلی از آن اکتشاف در سیاره‌شناسی

    چهارمین اسلاید شامل پیوند به مطبوعات، تصاویر، و منابع مورد استناد می‌باشد

  • این اسلایدها تمامی مباحث مورد بحث در سیاره‌شناسی را دربر می‌گیرند


زمان انتشار: آبان ۱۳۹۱

مرد در ماه: تقدیر یا تصادف؟(PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
سیاره‌ی کوتوله(اریس)، کوچک‌تر از آن که فکر می‌شد(PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
تغییرات تازه بر سطح عطارد؟(PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)

زمان انتشار: مهر ۱۳۹۰

سیاره‌ای که به دور دو خورشید می‌گردد (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)

زمان انتشار: فروردین ۱۳۹۰

هزار سیاره‌ی جدید(PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
کربنات مدفون در مریخ (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
هسته‌ی ماه (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
اقمار کوچک ملخ‌گون در حلقه‌های زحل (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
منظومه‌ای با شش سیاره (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
مجراهای دی‌اکسیدکربن در مریخ (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)

زمان انتشار: فروردین ۱۳۸۹

زهره ممکن است آتشفشان‌های فعال داشته باشد (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
یخچال‌های مدفون شده در مریخ (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
دریاچه‌ای نورانی بر تایتان (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
قمری (فیبی) که همسایه خود (یاپتوس) را در گرد و غبار پوشاند (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
امکان وجود سیاره‌ای آبی در فاصله‌ی ۴۰ سال نوری (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)

زمان انتشار: آذر ۱۳۸۸

کشف اولین سیاره‌ی فراخورشیدی خاکی (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
یافتن آب در ماه (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
برخوردی دیگر بر روی مشتری (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
اقیانوسی در زیر پوسته‌ی یخی انسلادوس؟ (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
کشف سیارکی ساعاتی پیش از برخورد (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
آیا جهان قبل از امتحانات ترم بعد به پایان می‌رسد؟ (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)

زمان انتشار: فروردین ۱۳۸۸

چرخه‌ی گوگرد در مریخ (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
اولین تصاویر از سیارات فراخورشیدی (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
متان در جوّ مریخ (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
منظومه شمسی اولیه‌ی آشفته (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
آتشفشان‌های عطارد (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)


این پروژه توسط گروه سیاره‌شناسی انجمن نجوم آمریکا حمایت می‌شود. اسلایدها توسط دیوید برین و نیک اشنایدر (دانشگاه کلرادو – بولدر) تهیه گردید است.

با تشکر فراوان از این دانشمندان که به ما در بازبینی این اسلایدها یاری رساندند: ناتالی باتالها، بیل بتکه، مارک بولاک، جو برنز، شین بایرن، دیوید شاربونو، تیلمن دنک، جو دوفک، داگ دانکن، بتانی اهلمن، جاناتان فورتنی، دیوید گرینسپون، کندی هنسن، جو هرینگتون، جیم هد، جک هالت، اندرو هوارد، برایان هاینک، دانا هرلی، بوروس جکسکی، پیتر جنسکنز، پاول کالس، مارک لویس، جک لیزار، جاناتان لانین، تام مک‌کالام، ویکی مدوّ، جو میشالسکی، الساندرو مربیدلی، دیوید موریسن، گلنن ارتن، دیدیر قولز، سین ریموند، ساموئل سچن، سارا سیگر، عامی سیمون‌میللر، سؤ سمرکر، جان سپنسر، الن ستفن، مت تیسکرنو، دیمیتری ورس، رنه وبر، بن ویس، دون یئومنس، جیم زیمبلمن، ادد آهارنسن، دیوید بلوت، مایک براون، فرانسیس نیمو، و برونو سیکاردی.

جا دارد که از پدرو والدس سادا (برای ترجمه به اسپانیایی) و کارن مولاوردی خانی (ترجمه به فارسی)، و همچنین از کلاودیا نز (برای بازخوانی ترجمه‌ها به اسپانیایی) و سیده صونا حسینی و فاطمه افشار احمدی ( بازخوانی ترجمه‌ها به فارسی)، تشکر و قدردانی نماییم.


لطفا برای طرح سوالات، نظرات و یا پیشنهاد ارایه‌ی اکتشاف خود، با ما تماس بگیرید: [email protected].

تمامی سیاره‌شناسان که تحقیقات اخیرشان حاوی اکتشافات جذابی است به ارایه کردن نتایج‌شان ترغیب می‌شوند. لطفا از پاورپوینت الگو برای طرح اولیه استفاده نمایید.

Descubrimientos en Ciencias Planetarias

[Versión en Inglés] [Versión Farsi]

  • Las ciencias planetarias son una rama de la investigación astronómica que evoluciona rápidamente. Pueden transcurrir varios años antes de que los nuevos descubrimientos sean incluidos en los libros de texto.
  • Estos conjuntos de diapositivas pretenden llenar este vacío. La idea central es proveer a la comunidad un contenido pertinente de los recientes descubrimientos en forma de presentaciones. Las presentaciones consisten de tres fichas. Este material puede ser incorporado con facilidad en los cursos universitarios.
  • Los conjuntos de diapositivas han sido diseñados para satisfacer los requisitos de un curso introductorio de astronomía a nivel de licenciatura.
  • Cada conjunto de diapositivas consiste de tres fichas:
    1. Una descripción del descubrimiento.
    2. Una discusión de la ciencia que se encuentra debajo de este descubrimiento.
    3. Una presentación del contexto global y las implicaciones del descubrimiento.

    Una cuarta ficha incluye ligas relevantes a comunicados de prensa, imágenes, y fuentes primarias de la información.

  • Los temas cubren todas las subdisciplinas de las ciencias planetarias.

Conjuntos de diapositivas

Liberadas en Noviembre del 2012:

El Hombre en la Luna: ¿Destino o Coincidencia? (PowerPoint, 1 pagina, PDF)
Planeta Enano más Pequeño que lo Originalmente Estimado (PowerPoint, 1 pagina, PDF)
¿Cambios Recientes en la Superficie de Mercurio? (PowerPoint, 1 pagina, PDF)

Liberadas en octubre del 2011:

Un Planeta Orbitando a Dos Soles (PowerPoint, 1 pagina, PDF)

Liberadas en abril del 2011:

Mil Planetas Nuevos (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
Carbonatos Enterrados en Marte (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
¿Qué hay dentro de la Luna? (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
Lunitas Hélice en los Anillos de Saturno (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
Descubrimiento de un Sistema con 6 Planetas (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
¿Qué Labró las Cañadas Marcianas? (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)

Liberadas en abril del 2010:

Venus Puede Tener Vulcanismo Activo (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
Glaciares Enterrados en Marte (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
Un Lago Iluminado por el Sol en Titán (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
Una Luna cubre a su Vecino con Polvo (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
Posible ‘Mundo Acuático a 40 Años Luz de Distancia (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)

Liberadas en diciembre del 2009:

El Primer Exoplaneta Rocoso Detectado (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
Agua Encontrada en la Luna (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
Otro Impacto en Júpiter (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
¿Un Océano Debajo de la Corteza Helada de Encelado? (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
Asteroide Detectado Horas antes de su Impacto (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
¿Se Acabará el Mundo antes que los Exámenes Finales? (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)

Liberadas en abril del 2009:

¿Afectó el Azufre al Clima y la Geología de Marte? (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
Las Primeras Imágenes de Exoplanetas (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
Metano en la Atmósfera Marciana (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
Un Sistema Solar Inicial … y Caótico (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
Volcanes en Mercurio (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)


Este proyecto es patrocinado por la División de Ciencias Planetarias de la Asociación Americana de Astronomía. Los conjuntos de diapositivas son diseñados por David Brain y Nick Schneider (University of Colorado at Boulder), y son traducidos por Pedro Valdés Sada (Universidad de Monterrey en México).

Nuestro agradecimiento a los investigadores que ayudaron a revisar los conjuntos de diapositivas antes de su liberación: Natalie Batalha, Bill Bottke, Mark Bullock, Joe Burns, Shane Byrne, David Charbonneau, Tilmann Denk, Joe Dufek, Doug Duncan, Bethany Ehlmann, Jonathan Fortney, David Grinspoon, Candy Hansen, Joe Harrington, Jim Head, Jack Holt, Andrew Howard, Brian Hynek, Dana Hurley, Bruce Jakosky, Peter Jenniskens, Paul Kalas, Mark Lewis, Jack Lissauer, Jonathan Lunine, Tom McCollom, Vikki Meadows, Joe Michalski, Alessandro Morbidelli, David Morrison, Glenn Orton, Didier Queloz, Sean Raymond, Samuel Schon, Sara Seager, Amy Simon-Miller, Sue Smrekar, John Spencer, Ellen Stofan, Matt Tiscareno, Dimitri Veras, Renee Weber, Ben Weiss, Don Yeomans, y Jim Zimbelman.


Para preguntas, comentarios, o para sugerir un descubrimiento para consideración, pueden comunicarse a [email protected].

Se anima a los investigadores en ciencias planetarias que tengan resultados recientes de interés general a remitirlos para su consideración. Nos pueden mandar un borrador inicial de su trabajo utilizando esta plantilla de PowerPoint.

DPS Education Subcommittee

The DPS Education Subcommittee is responsible for reviewing and setting overarching goals and policy for the involvement of the society in education. The Subcommittee exists to promote and facilitate the involvement of any DPS member in education, and to raise the level of understanding of the importance of scientist involvement in education within the society. While Subcommittee members may carry out individual education projects as they align with DPS education goals, the Subcommittee does not carry out all of the education programs of the membership. Rather, if any member of the DPS has an interest in education, the Subcommittee will assist them in identifying the appropriate resources and partners so that they can move forward with this work themselves. Education Subcommittee members are appointed by the DPS Education Officer, subject to the approval of the DPS Committee. Appointments may be for one to three years, with new members solicited from the DPS society at large as old members rotate off. The subcommittee is happy to answer questions, hear comments, and point DPS Members towards resources for their involvement in education; send them a message. (If your needs are more media related, check with the current DPS Press Officer.)

Current Education Subcommittee Members

Member Term Start Notes
Brian Jackson DPS Education Officer 2023-present
Christine Shupla 2019
Sanlyn Buxner 2017 Past DPS Education Officer
Dave Klassen
Tim Livengood 2023
Trudi Hoogenboom 2023

Past Education Subcommittee Members

What is a Planet?

11 October 2006

On Wednesday, August 16, 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) announced a proposed definition of a planet. A significantly revised version of this definition was passed by the membership at its general meeting on August 24, 2006. The IAU is an international organization of over 8,000 astronomers representing over 80 countries and held its meeting this year in Prague. The proposal for defining “what is a planet” and the fate of Pluto has been making front-page news for several weeks. In the draft resolution, three “planets” (asteroid Ceres, distant object 2003 UB313, and Pluto’s satellite Charon) were added to the existing nine planets. However, there was concern by many astronomers that, if this definition of a planet passed, there was the likelihood that dozens of other planets would be added in the near future.

A summary of what went on in Prague, the process that led to the final vote on August 24, the concerns that have since been raised by some astronomers, and the process that will lead to an eventual formulation for the definition of a planet was sent by Dr. Richard French, DPS Chair, to the entire DPS membership.

What brought about this proposal? In 1930, when Pluto was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh, it was thought to be as large as Earth. With more study, we now know that it is only a little more than 2200 km in diameter, smaller than our Moon! For this reason, during the 1990s, a few astronomers began questioning whether or not Pluto should be considered a planet. This question became more important beginning in 1992 with the discovery of objects in orbits similar to Pluto’s orbit, some of which were almost as large as Pluto. Should these also be called planets? Is Pluto only one of many Kuiper Belt Objects (a subset of the Tran-Neptunian Objects that have orbits between 30 and 50 Astronomical Units from the Sun)? Then in 2003, an object was found that is larger than Pluto (2003 UB313, “Xena”). Should this object also be a planet?

An IAU committee of 19 planetary scientists tried, unsuccessfully, to come up with a definition of a planet in 2005. They failed to reach a consensus. In the spring of 2006, the IAU formed another committee to try to resolve this issue. The committee was made up of seven astronomers, journalists, and historians. They created a Draft Resolution defining a planet as an object orbiting a star which is large enough so that its gravity would pull it into an approximate sphere. By this definition, our solar system would have 12 planets. The committee presented this Draft Resolution at the IAU meeting and for a week, there were heated discussions and negotiations that led to the revised resolutions. These final resolutions were passed by the membership present for the final vote on August 24.

However, many planetary astronomers are unhappy with the process that led to the adopted resolutions, arguing that there was no time for a full and through debate by the larger planetary science community, most of whom were not in Prague. There will likely be further discuss about this issue.

Why is this important to scientists, and why is it important to you as a teacher or parent of a child who wants to know how many planets there are?

Importance to scientists

Scientists in any field use classification as a way to study things. Many times, the more we know, the more difficult it is to classify things. Some things may not fit into our “usual” classification scheme. This is true for planets, asteroids, comets, and satellites. Our original classifications have been challenged with the discovery of objects that orbit the Sun beyond the orbit of Neptune as well as planets around other stars.

Importance to you

You should not throw out your old textbooks. However, if the subject comes up, children will want to know the exact answer. The answer is that the IAU has voted on and approved a definition for “planet” that retains only the eight classical planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune). Pluto becomes the prototype object for a new class of objects, “dwarf planets,” that at the moment includes Ceres and 2003 UB313 as well as Pluto.

As you are probably aware, the discussion is still going on. While the original resolution was based on several years of ongoing discussion, the resolutions that were passed were written in only a few days and so some points need to be clarified. What is most important at the moment is that by seeing the process that scientists are going through to make their decisions of what constitutes a planet, you are seeing science at work. New discoveries have made scientists rethink how they have defined a planet (a big object in orbit around the Sun). It shows that science is dynamic and not static. It shows that, many times, there is no clearly “correct” answer. Are the definitions perfect? No. Do all planetary scientists agree with the recommendations? Definitely no. While many astronomers are happy with the definitions, others are protesting the manner in which the resolutions were formulated and how the vote was carried out. While Pluto is now called a “dwarf planet,” it is still orbiting the Sun. It will still be visited by the New Horizons spacecraft in 2015, and scientists will still study it with groundbased and spacebased telescopes. You, as a teacher, should take advantage of the on-going debate about Pluto and the definition of a planet as a way to teach about how science is done and how, as scientists learn more about the world around us, our view of the solar system and the rest of the universe is ever-changing—so must our definitions and theories be subject to change.

Resolutions passed by the IAU General Assembly on 24 August 2006.

Resolution 5A is the principal definition for the IAU usage of “planet” and related terms. Resolution 6A creates for IAU usage a new class of objects, for which Pluto is the prototype. The IAU will set up a process to name these objects. – and links to articles written by several scientists and science educators.

IAU Resolution 5A: Definition of a Planet in the Solar System

Contemporary observations are changing our understanding of planetary systems, and it is important that our nomenclature for objects reflect our current understanding. This applies, in particular, to the designation “planets.” The word “planet” originally described “wanderers” that were known only as moving lights in the sky. Recent discoveries led us to create a new definition, which we can make using currently available scientific information.

The IAU therefore resolves that “planets” and other bodies in our Solar System, except satellites, be defined into three distinct categories in the following way:

1. A “planet”1 is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (c) has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.

While planets have to be nearly spherical, they usually bulge at the equator, thanks to the fact that planets rotate. The Earth’s diameter at the equator is about 12,760 km (7,925 miles), while from pole to pole it is about 12,720 km (7,900 miles). Scientists estimate that for a rocky body, hydrostatic equilibrium will happen for an object that is about 800 km (500 miles) and has a mass about 1/12,000 that of the Earth (Ceres is about 950 km and has a mass about 1/7000 that of Earth).

Part “a” eliminates satellites of the planets as potential planets even if they are “round.” Part “c” is the major difference between the original draft resolution and the one that passed. This eliminated the Main Belt asteroid Ceres (only one of many asteroids) and Pluto and 2003 UB313 (two of many Trans-Neptunian Objects) and eliminated the possibility of there being dozens of other planets in the near future.

2. A “dwarf planet” is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape2 , (c) has not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit, and (d) is not a satellite.

In the original resolution, “dwarf planet” was not an official IAU term. The terms “terrestrial” and “gas giant” (or jovian) are not official IAU terms. This resolution then creates a new class of objects that includes Ceres (and possibly a few other Main Belt asteroids), as well as Pluto and other large Tran-Neptunian Objects.

3. All other objects3 except satellites orbiting the Sun shall be referred to collectively as “Small Solar-System Bodies”.

The term “minor planet” will no longer be used. Small Solar System Bodies include asteroids and comets. While most known asteroids have orbits between Mars and Jupiter in the Asteroid Belt, there are groups of objects that orbit in other parts of the solar system: Near-Earth Asteroids (NEOs), many of whose orbits cross the orbit of the Earth; Trojan Asteroids that share the orbits of several of the planets (Mars, Jupiter, and Neptune); Centaurs, whose highly elliptical orbits cross the orbits of the outer planets; Kuiper Belt Objects, objects in orbits beyond Neptune’s orbit and that orbit in a relatively flat disk between 30 and 50 AU (30 to 50 times Earth’s distance from the Sun); and Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs), objects that have orbits beyond the orbit of Neptune (KBOs are a subset of the TNOs).

1The eight “planets” are: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.
2An IAU process will be established to assign borderline objects into either dwarf planet and other categories.
3These currently include most of the Solar System asteroids, most Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs), comets, and other small bodies.

IAU Resolution 6A: Pluto

The IAU further resolves:
Pluto is a “dwarf planet” by the above definition and is recognized as the prototype of a new category of trans-Neptunian objects.

One issue that has been raised is: Are “dwarf planets” planets or not? In a statement by Iwan Williams, the outgoing IAU President said: “To the question is Pluto a planet, you can now give two answers. No, it is a dwarf planet; and yes, it is a dwarf planet!” While there is a general feeling that this was not the intent of the people who voted on this, it is not explicitly ruled out in the resolution and probably will be one of the many aspects that will be discussed over the next few years as debate on this issue continues.

Further Reading

Below are several articles that will help in teaching about the ongoing issues of what is a planet and is Pluto a planet.

Support for IAU Resolutions, Dr. Michael Brown
This Web page at CalTech discusses why Dr. Brown supports the IAU resolutions. Brown has a serious interest in the subject: he discovered the large Kuiper Belt Object Quaoar which reopened the question as to the status of Pluto as a planet, and then 2003 UB313 (“Xena”), an object that has been shown to be larger than Pluto. He is concerned that Pluto and “Xena” are both much smaller than the eight classical planets and that the new definition avoids the potential of having dozens of new, small, icy planets in our solar system.
Editorial article about the issue illustrates that the scientific process is dynamic, Dr. Nadine Barlow
This was an editorial in Flagstaff’s Arizona Daily Sun newspaper by Dr. Nadine Barlow of Northern Arizona University. Although she is a planetary scientist focusing on impact cratering, she is very interested in education and public outreach and is now teaching about this issue to her college students (in the city where Pluto was discovered). She addresses her concerns about the vote from the perspective of growing up with Pluto as a planet, as an educator, and as a planetary scientist. She was happy with the original resolution in that it was based on the physical nature of the objects and was a relatively simple definition. What is important for her as an educator is that this whole issue points out that science is not static.
Bulldoze Pluto? I Don’t Think So, Dr. Jeffrey Bennett
Dr. Jeffrey Bennett is a scientist, educator, and textbook and children’s book writer at the University of Colorado. His view is somewhere between the previous two articles. As a scientist, he is happy to see that the issue has been resolved, but as an educator, he does have some reservations. He gives a good history of the discovery of Pluto and the discoveries leading up to the IAU vote.
The debate as a teachable moment, William Schmitt
Finally, there is a message that was posted by William Schmitt. He is a science educator at the Science Center of Inquiry and is the former Director of the Pacific Science Center . To him, it is not important whether or not we call Pluto a planet, but that the process that is unfolding creates a teachable moment. He notes that nature does not classify things, but people and scientists do. We look at the properties of objects and categorize them so that they make sense to us. That is what really happened at the IAU meeting and this is what we should be teaching our children.

In summary, what is important is the process that went into the final vote. Even the people who support the new definition of planet are willing to admit that the definitions are still a little “fuzzy.”

If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the DPS Education and Public Outreach Officer at [email protected]

Discoveries in Planetary Science

  • Planetary science is a field that is still evolving rapidly, and it can take several years for new advances to work their way into college textbooks.
  • These slide sets seek to bridge this gap by providing content in the form of 3-slide presentations that can be incorporated into college lectures.
  • The slide sets are targeted at the Introductory Astronomy undergraduate level.
  • Each slide set consists of three slides:
    1. a description of the discovery
    2. a discussion of the underlying science
    3. a presentation of the big picture implications of the discovery

    A fourth slide includes links to associated press releases, images, and primary sources.

  • Topics span all subdisciplines of planetary science

Slide Sets

Released November 2012:
The Man in the Moon: Fate or Coincidence? (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
Dwarf Planet Smaller than Originally Thought (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
Recent Surface Changes on Mercury? (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
Released October 2011:
A Planet Orbiting Two Suns (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
Released April 2011:
A Thousand New Planets (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
Buried Mars Carbonates (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
The Lunar Core (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
Propeller Moons of Saturn (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
A Six-Planet System (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
Carbon Dioxide Gullies on Mars (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
Released April 2010:
Venus May Have Active Volcanism (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
Buried Glaciers at Mars (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
A Sunlit Lake on Titan (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
One Moon (Phoebe) Coats its Neighbor (Iapetus) in Dust (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
Possible `Water World’ at 40 Light Years (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
Released December 2009:
First Rocky Exoplanet Detected (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
Water Found on the Moon (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
Another Impact on Jupiter (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
An Ocean Below Enceladus’ Icy Crust? (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
Asteroid Detected Before Impact (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
Will the World End Before Finals? (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
Released April 2009:
Mars Sulfur Cycle (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
The First Images of Exoplanets (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
Methane in the Martian Atmosphere (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
The Chaotic Early Solar System (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)
Volcanoes on Mercury (PowerPoint, 1 page, PDF)


This project is supported by the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society. Slide sets are created by David Brain and Nick Schneider (University of Colorado at Boulder).

Many thanks to the following scientists who helped to review the slide sets before their release: Natalie Batalha, Bill Bottke, Mark Bullock, Joe Burns, Shane Byrne, David Charbonneau, Tilmann Denk, Joe Dufek, Doug Duncan, Bethany Ehlmann, Jonathan Fortney, David Grinspoon, Candy Hansen, Joe Harrington, Jim Head, Jack Holt, Andrew Howard, Brian Hynek, Dana Hurley, Bruce Jakosky, Peter Jenniskens, Paul Kalas, Mark Lewis, Jack Lissauer, Jonathan Lunine, Tom McCollom, Vikki Meadows, Joe Michalski, Alessandro Morbidelli, David Morrison, Glenn Orton, Didier Queloz, Sean Raymond, Samuel Schon, Sara Seager, Amy Simon-Miller, Sue Smrekar, John Spencer, Ellen Stofan, Matt Tiscareno, Dimitri Veras, Renee Weber, Ben Weiss, Don Yeomans, Jim Zimbelman, Oded Aharonson, David Blewett, Mike Brown, Francis Nimmo, and Bruno Sicardy.

We appreciate the translations of the slide sets graciously provided by Pedro Valdes Sada (Spanish) and Karan Molaverdikhani (Farsi), and proofreading of the translations provided by Claudia Knez (Spanish) and Seyyedeh Sona Hosseini and Fatemeh Afshar Ahmadi (Farsi).


For questions, comments, or to submit your discovery for consideration, please contact [email protected].

Planetary scientists with recent or upcoming results of broad interest are encouraged to submit them for consideration by providing an initial draft using this PowerPoint Template.


The Division for Planetary Sciences is committed to enriching educational experiences for students, teachers, and the general public in the multiple disciplines of planetary science and supporting disciplines of math and technology. We wish to use our wealth of space science expertise to excite and inspire the next generation of space scientists and to demonstrate the value of planetary exploration and discovery to the nation. Our membership are involved in a wide array of education and public outreach activities including classroom visits, training for formal and informal educators, product and curriculum review, systemic education reform, science content advisors, after school clubs, as well as public outreach through books, journals, and radio and TV interviews.


Trick or Treat and Telescopes!

Join your fellow DPS members in hosting a telescope viewing on Halloween, during Trick-or-Treat time. Click on the link for more details and resources. Please send comments and pictures of your events to bonnie(dot)buratti(at)


DPS Discovery Slide Sets

In an effort to keep the astronomy classroom apprised of the fast moving field of planetary science, the DPS has developed these 3-slide presentations that can be incorporated into college lectures. The slide sets are targeted at the Introductory Astronomy undergraduate level. Each slide set consists of three slides which cover a description of the discovery, a discussion of the underlying science, and a presentation of the big picture implications of the discovery, with a fourth slide includes links to associated press releases, images, and primary sources. Sets are available in Farsi and Spanish.


Getting Involved in Effective Outreach guides

The NASA SMD E/PO Forums have created two, one-page guides to assist scientists interested in E/PO.

  1. The first is “The Quick Introduction to Education and Public Outreach,” which offers suggestions to first-timers about how they might start reaching out. 

  2. The second is the “Making the Most of Your E/PO Time – Increasing Your Efficiency and Impact,” which suggests leveraging existing materials and programs and provides other ideas for scientists to make the best use of their time.   


Graduate Programs List

Because of the great diversity in represented fields, we have attempted to compile a list of the graduate programs which can lead to a PhD with a planetary science focus. List is searchable and includes links to listed departments for more information.


REU Programs List

Trying to find an REU program that caters to those interested in planetary science is a difficult task because planetary science is an interdisciplinary study covering traditional fields such as geology, chemistry, astronomy, physics, and so on. Because of this diversity we have attempted to compile a list of REU programs where students can work on research program in planetary science.


Public Outreach Programming

The DPS hosts a society meeting each year at a different city in the US (and often outside the US). In addition to scientific presentations, these meetings also involve public outreach programming — stargazing events, public lectures, etc. Visit the Future Meetings Page  to see where future meetings will take place.

2022 Sagan Talk & Star Party


What is a Planet?