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Zyklop
Saturday, July 30th, 2005, 09:59 AM
Tenth planet found!

BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
STORY WRITTEN FOR CBS NEWS "SPACE PLACE" (http://cbsnews.cbs.com/network/news/space/current.html) & USED WITH PERMISSION
Posted: July 29, 2005


A team of astronomers systematically scanning the far reaches of the solar system has discovered a distant, icy world that is bigger than Pluto but so far away the head of a pin held at arm's length would blot out the sun. The discovery, if confirmed, would force astronomers to re-write their textbooks and give school kids a 10th planet to memorize once a governing body sanctions the still-secret name proposed by a trio of discoverers.
http://www.spaceflightnow.com/news/n0507/29planet/planet.jpg
This artist's concept shows the planet catalogued as 2003UB313 at the lonely outer fringes of our solar system. Our Sun can be seen in the distance. The new planet, which is yet to be formally named, is at least as big as Pluto and about three times farther away from the Sun than Pluto. It is very cold and dark. The planet was discovered by the Samuel Oschin Telescope at the Palomar Observatory near San Diego, Calif., on Jan. 8, 2005. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Currently known by the catalog number 2003UB313, the newly discovered planet wheels about in an elliptical orbit tilted some 45 degrees to the plane of the solar system's eight major planets, taking 560 years to complete one trip around the sun.
At its most distant, the planet is a remote 97 times farther from the sun than the Earth. At its closest, it passes inside the orbit of Pluto at a distance of some 36 astronomical units. It is currently the most distant object known in the solar system, so far removed that its surface temperature is a frigid 30 degrees above absolute zero.
"It has a surface just like that of Pluto," said Michael Brown, a planetary scientist at the California Institute of Technology. "It's a little bit bigger than Pluto and the main difference, of course, is it's much, much farther away than Pluto right now, so it's going to be a much colder place to be. Not a very pleasant place to live, definitely. And life as we know it would certainly not be doing much out there."
The new world was discovered Jan. 8 by Brown, Chad Trujillo, of the Gemini Observatory in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and David Rabinowitz, of Yale University, using the 48-inch Samuel Oschin Telescope at Mount Palomar.
With a surface dominated by methane, the distant world is 1,677 miles in diameter, compared to about 1,400 miles for Pluto. It is a member of the Kuiper Belt, a broad fan-shaped disk of icy debris extending from the orbit of Neptune to well beyond Pluto. Disturbed by gravitational interactions, primarily involving Jupiter and Saturn, a Kuiper Belt object can fall into the inner solar system and become captured in a so-called short-period orbit.
In the early solar system, gravitational encounters also threw large numbers of comets into a vast, spherical shell known as the Oort Cloud. Comets that eventually fall back into the inner solar system from the Oort Cloud typically have orbits measured in millions of years.
The newly discovered world is a "very cold, very distant place," Brown told reporters in a teleconference Friday evening. "If you were standing on the surface and you held a pin at arm's length, you could cover the sun with the head of the pin. As I said, it's not a place you'd want to go for a summer vacation. Now, in 280 years, it'll be a lot closer, but it still won't be much of a vacation spot then, either."
http://www.spaceflightnow.com/news/n0507/29planet/newplanet.jpg
This time-lapse image of a newfound planet in our solar system, called 2003UB313, was taken on Oct. 21, 2003, using the Samuel Oschin Telescope at the Palomar Observatory near San Diego, Calif. The planet, circled in red, is seen moving across a field of stars. The three images were taken about 90 minutes apart. Scientists did not discover the planet until Jan. 8, 2005. Credit: Samuel Oschin Telescope, Palomar Observatory

The size of the planet was inferred by observations of its brightness.
"Even if it reflected 100 percent of the light reaching it, it would still be as big as Pluto," Brown said in an earlier statement. "I'd say it's probably one and a half times the size of Pluto, but we're not sure yet of the final size."
Talking to reporters, he said a name has been submitted to the International Astronomical Union and "I don't want to say what it is yet because we really want this name to get accepted and we want to make sure we go through all the proper channels," Brown said.
The discovery almost surely will re-ignite the debate over what it takes to be defined as a planet. Many astronomers believe Pluto is more accurately grouped with other Kuiper Belt objects and should not be considered a planet in the traditional sense. The debate has even made it into the lyrics of popular song, "Planet X" by Christine Lavin (http://www.christinelavin.com/planetx.html).
"Even I have promoted the idea that we should consider Pluto not to be a planet and a Kuiper Belt object instead," Brown said. "But historically, it's been called a planet for such a long time that I think we're never going to not call Pluto a planet. And that's fine. I think historically, we can call it a planet."
But if Pluto is, in fact, a planet, "then anything larger than Pluto - I think we should draw the line there - anything larger than Pluto is a planet. Things that are smaller, I think we just call them typical members of the Kuiper Belt and they don't join this very special class of things that are planets."
Brown said the discoverers were holding off making an announcement until after they completed their observations. But hackers found the discovery on a private website and trio decided to go public.


http://www.spaceflightnow.com/news/n0507/29planet/

Death and the Sun
Saturday, July 30th, 2005, 03:26 PM
The new object defies astronomers' definitions of what a "planet" actually is:


Astronomers have discovered an object in our solar system that is larger than Pluto. They are calling it the 10th planet, but already that claim is contested.

The new world's size is not at issue. But the very definition of planethood is.

....

The object is inclined by a whopping 45 degrees to the main plane of the solar system, where most of the other planets orbit. That's why it eluded discovery: nobody was looking there until now, Brown said.

Some astronomers view it as a Kuiper Belt object and not a planet. The Kuiper Belt is a region of frozen objects beyond Neptune.

.....

Brian Marsden, who runs the Minor Planet Center where data on objects like this are collected, says that if Pluto is a planet, then other round objects nearly as large as Pluto ought to be called planets. On that logic, 2003 UB313 would perhaps be a planet, but it would have to get in line behind a handful of others that were discovered previously.

"I would not call it the 10th planet," Marsden told SPACE.com.


Source: Space.com (http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/050729_new_planet.html)

Death and the Sun
Saturday, July 30th, 2005, 03:34 PM
This discovery overshadowed another important discovery made on the very same day: that of another body, this one significantly smaller than Pluto, but not as distant from the sun:


A newfound object in our solar system's outskirts may be larger than any known world after Pluto, scientists said today.

It also has a moon.

Designated as 2003 EL61, the main object in the two-body system is 32 percent as massive as Pluto and is estimated to be about 70 percent of Pluto's diameter.

Other news reports that the object could be twice as big as Pluto are false, according to two astronomers who found the object in separate studies and another expert who has analyzed the data.

If the mass is only one-third that of Pluto, then theory holds that it can't be larger than Pluto, according to Brian Marsden of the Minor Planet Center, which serves as a clearinghouse for data on all newfound objects in the solar system.

Marsden, who was not involved in the discovery but has reviewed the data, told SPACE.com that the mass estimate is very firm, within 1 or 2 percent. "I don’t think it is bigger than Pluto," he said.

...

This is still a big world, once again raising the prospect that something larger than Pluto might still lurk out there. (haha, very appropiate that this be proven to be correct later on the very same day -- Eld.)



From Space.com (http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/050729_large_object.html)

Ewergrin
Monday, August 1st, 2005, 04:25 AM
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/index.cfm?c_id=5&ObjectID=10338496

You could call it the tenth rock from the sun. Scientists yesterday made the dramatic announcement that they had found the first new planet in the solar system in three quarters of a century. The planet - a giant lump of rock and ice, more than nine billion miles from the Sun - is the first to be discovered since Pluto in 1930. The breakthrough will cause the redrawing of the maps of our corner of the universe.

"Get out your pens and start rewriting the textbooks today," says an exultant Dr Michael Brown, of the California Institute of Technology, who made the discovery. But even he admits that the new planet - 97 times further from the Sun than Earth, three times even than Pluto - is scarcely a welcoming place, even to aliens.

"If you were sitting on the surface and held a pin at arm's length, you would cover the Sun with the head of the pin," he says. "It's not the sort of place you would want to go on summer vacation."

No, indeed. It is almost unimaginably cold: on a good day, it might touch minus 400F. And you'd be a long time waiting for your annual holiday to come round, as the planet's year is wearyingly long - it takes more than 204,000 days to orbit the sun. Labelling the holiday snaps, at least at present, would be another problem. For the time being, the planet is officially the unromantic 2003 UB313.

Dr Brown and his team have christened it Xena, after the warrior princess in the old television series, "... because we always wanted to name something Xena". But the formal decision on a name will be made by the International Astronomical Union.

Xena - if such it formally becomes - is the biggest object to have been discovered in the solar system since Neptune in 1845. More important, at about 2,000 miles across, it is considerably bigger than Pluto, which is what gives it the right to be considered our 10th planet.

Since 1992, scientists have discovered that there is a swarm of some 70,000 heavenly bodies buzzing around in the vast distances on the far side of Neptune, in the so-called Kuiper Belt. Primitive remnants from the birth of the solar system, they are thought to be the parents of the comets that return to our skies most frequently. Chips, struck off when two of the objects collide, are believed to form the nuclei of the ominous visitors. Pluto is one of them, and five years ago there was an international attempt to strip it of its planetary rank, as - at just 1,450 miles across - it is much smaller than our Moon. But the bid was beaten off under public protest, and since then it has been understood that anything bigger than Pluto would be recognised as a planet too.

Over recent years there have been several near misses. Dr Brown and his team of planet-spotters found one in 2002, and another last year. And only on Thursday astronomers at the Institute of Astrophysics in Andalusia, Spain, announced another - just beating Dr Brown, who had planned to unveil it at a conference in Cambridge in September.

Indeed, Dr Brown rushed out the news of Xena early, after learning that someone "with more cleverness than scruples" had hacked into his restricted website on Thursday night, and fearing that he would be beaten to the announcement.

"We are 100 per cent confident that this is the first object bigger than Pluto ever found in the outer solar system," Dr Brown says. He and his team first photographed Xena two years ago, without realising what it was. It was only when they snapped it again, and found it had moved, that they realised they had found a planet. They finally twigged on 8 January this year, just eight days too late for Dr Brown.

For five years ago, he bet a fellow astronomer, Sabine Airieau, five bottles of good champagne that he would find the solar system's 10th planet by the end of 2004. At the end of last year, he ruefully accepted that he had failed and sent off the bottles. But, once Xena was found, he says, Dr Airieau "graciously decided" that he had won a moral victory after all, and agreed to pay up herself. "That means I get to drink 10 bottles of good champagne," he says. And if that does not put him into orbit, nothing will.

Ewergrin
Monday, August 1st, 2005, 04:34 AM
http://www.spaceflightnow.com/news/n0507/29planet/

A team of astronomers systematically scanning the far reaches of the solar system has discovered a distant, icy world that is bigger than Pluto but so far away the head of a pin held at arm's length would blot out the sun. The discovery, if confirmed, would force astronomers to re-write their textbooks and give school kids a 10th planet to memorize once a governing body sanctions the still-secret name proposed by a trio of discoverers.

Currently known by the catalog number 2003UB313, the newly discovered planet wheels about in an elliptical orbit tilted some 45 degrees to the plane of the solar system's eight major planets, taking 560 years to complete one trip around the sun.

At its most distant, the planet is a remote 97 times farther from the sun than the Earth. At its closest, it passes inside the orbit of Pluto at a distance of some 36 astronomical units. It is currently the most distant object known in the solar system, so far removed that its surface temperature is a frigid 30 degrees above absolute zero.

"It has a surface just like that of Pluto," said Michael Brown, a planetary scientist at the California Institute of Technology. "It's a little bit bigger than Pluto and the main difference, of course, is it's much, much farther away than Pluto right now, so it's going to be a much colder place to be. Not a very pleasant place to live, definitely. And life as we know it would certainly not be doing much out there."

The new world was discovered Jan. 8 by Brown, Chad Trujillo, of the Gemini Observatory in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and David Rabinowitz, of Yale University, using the 48-inch Samuel Oschin Telescope at Mount Palomar.

With a surface dominated by methane, the distant world is 1,677 miles in diameter, compared to about 1,400 miles for Pluto. It is a member of the Kuiper Belt, a broad fan-shaped disk of icy debris extending from the orbit of Neptune to well beyond Pluto. Disturbed by gravitational interactions, primarily involving Jupiter and Saturn, a Kuiper Belt object can fall into the inner solar system and become captured in a so-called short-period orbit.

In the early solar system, gravitational encounters also threw large numbers of comets into a vast, spherical shell known as the Oort Cloud. Comets that eventually fall back into the inner solar system from the Oort Cloud typically have orbits measured in millions of years.

The newly discovered world is a "very cold, very distant place," Brown told reporters in a teleconference Friday evening. "If you were standing on the surface and you held a pin at arm's length, you could cover the sun with the head of the pin. As I said, it's not a place you'd want to go for a summer vacation. Now, in 280 years, it'll be a lot closer, but it still won't be much of a vacation spot then, either."

The size of the planet was inferred by observations of its brightness.

"Even if it reflected 100 percent of the light reaching it, it would still be as big as Pluto," Brown said in an earlier statement. "I'd say it's probably one and a half times the size of Pluto, but we're not sure yet of the final size."

Talking to reporters, he said a name has been submitted to the International Astronomical Union and "I don't want to say what it is yet because we really want this name to get accepted and we want to make sure we go through all the proper channels," Brown said.

The discovery almost surely will re-ignite the debate over what it takes to be defined as a planet. Many astronomers believe Pluto is more accurately grouped with other Kuiper Belt objects and should not be considered a planet in the traditional sense. The debate has even made it into the lyrics of popular song, "Planet X" by Christine Lavin (http://www.christinelavin.com/planetx.html).

"Even I have promoted the idea that we should consider Pluto not to be a planet and a Kuiper Belt object instead," Brown said. "But historically, it's been called a planet for such a long time that I think we're never going to not call Pluto a planet. And that's fine. I think historically, we can call it a planet."

But if Pluto is, in fact, a planet, "then anything larger than Pluto - I think we should draw the line there - anything larger than Pluto is a planet. Things that are smaller, I think we just call them typical members of the Kuiper Belt and they don't join this very special class of things that are planets."

Brown said the discoverers were holding off making an announcement until after they completed their observations. But hackers found the discovery on a private website and trio decided to go public.

http://www.spaceflightnow.com/news/n0507/29planet/planet.jpg
This artist's concept shows the planet catalogued as 2003UB313 at the lonely outer fringes of our solar system. Our Sun can be seen in the distance. The new planet, which is yet to be formally named, is at least as big as Pluto and about three times farther away from the Sun than Pluto. It is very cold and dark. The planet was discovered by the Samuel Oschin Telescope at the Palomar Observatory near San Diego, Calif., on Jan. 8, 2005. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

http://www.spaceflightnow.com/news/n0507/29planet/newplanet.jpg
This time-lapse image of a newfound planet in our solar system, called 2003UB313, was taken on Oct. 21, 2003, using the Samuel Oschin Telescope at the Palomar Observatory near San Diego, Calif. The planet, circled in red, is seen moving across a field of stars. The three images were taken about 90 minutes apart. Scientists did not discover the planet until Jan. 8, 2005. Credit: Samuel Oschin Telescope, Palomar Observatory

Ewergrin
Sunday, October 2nd, 2005, 10:55 PM
Xena gets a Gabrielle: Moon orbiting so-called 10th planet


LOS ANGELES (AP) — The astronomers who claim to have discovered the 10th planet in the solar system have another intriguing announcement: It has a moon.

While observing the new, so-called planet from Hawaii last month, a team of astronomers led by Michael Brown of the California Institute of Technology spotted a faint object trailing next to it. Because it was moving, astronomers ruled it was a moon and not a background star, which is stationary.

The moon discovery is important because it can help scientists determine the new planet's mass. In July, Brown announced the discovery of an icy, rocky object larger than Pluto in the Kuiper Belt, a disc of icy bodies beyond Neptune. Brown labeled the object a planet and nicknamed it Xena after the lead character in the former TV series Xena: Warrior Princess. The moon was nicknamed Gabrielle, after Xena's faithful traveling sidekick.

By determining the moon's distance and orbit around Xena, scientists can calculate how heavy Xena is. For example, the faster a moon goes around a planet, the more massive a planet is.

But the discovery of the moon is not likely to quell debate about what exactly makes a planet. The problem is there is no official definition for a planet and setting standards like size limits potentially invites other objects to take the "planet" label.

Possessing a moon is not a criteria of planethood since Mercury and Venus are moonless planets. Brown said he expected to find a moon orbiting Xena because many Kuiper Belt objects are paired with moons.

The newly discovered moon is about 155 miles wide and 60 times fainter than Xena, the farthest-known object in the solar system. It is currently 9 billion miles away from the sun, or about three times Pluto's current distance from the sun.

Scientists believe Xena's moon was formed when Kuiper Belt objects collided with one another. The Earth's moon formed in a similar way when Earth crashed into an object the size of Mars.

The moon was first spotted by a 10-meter telescope at the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii on Sept. 10. Scientists expect to learn more about the moon's composition during further observations with the Hubble Space Telescope in November.

Brown planned to submit a paper describing the moon discovery to the Astrophysical Journal next week. The International Astronomical Union, a group of scientists responsible for naming planets, is deciding on formal names for Xena and Gabrielle.

Sigurd
Friday, February 3rd, 2006, 03:02 PM
At the Edge of Solar System, a 10th Planet May Lurk

By Guy Gugliotta
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 2, 2006; Page A03

So what, exactly, is a planet? Astronomers have been deadlocked over this for years, but a decision may finally be forthcoming, because a thing they discovered last year in the solar system's outer reaches has turned out to be bigger than Pluto.

So if Pluto hangs on to its status -- by no means a slam-dunk -- then the fetchingly named 2003 UB313, which is about 30 percent fatter, probably would have to be a planet, too. The 10th.

But if Pluto gets demoted, the solar system will have just eight. Either way, textbooks that refer to nine planets are doomed to obsolescence.

"It's only fair," said astronomer Frank Bertoldi of Germany's University of Bonn. "It's my view that Pluto for historical reasons should remain a planet -- otherwise school kids will be confused. Any object that's bigger than Pluto should also be a planet."

Bertoldi, reporting today in the journal Nature, led a research team that measured surface temperatures of 2003 UB313 to confirm that this "ice dwarf," more than 9 billion miles from the sun at its farthest point, is about 1,800 miles in diameter, whereas Pluto's diameter is about 1,380 miles.

Neither one is "big." Earth's moon is 2,160 miles across.

Astronomers suspected that 2003 UB313 was at least as big as Pluto and probably bigger when its discoverers measured its brightness last summer. Any object that far away could not be as bright as it was and still be smaller than Pluto.

"But they didn't know how big it was, or whether it could have been as big as Mercury," said Carnegie Institute of Washington astronomer Scott S. Sheppard, author of an article accompanying the Nature paper.

To pin down 2003 UB313's size, astronomers needed to know not only its brightness but also its reflectivity -- how much of the sunlight illuminating the distant body was bouncing off its surface.

"A small body with high reflectivity can be as bright as a large body with low reflectivity," Sheppard said. Brightness in the visible spectrum is a function of both the reflectivity of the body and its size, expressed as the area illuminated by the sun.

To determine reflectivity, Bertoldi's team used a radio telescope in the mountains of southern Spain to examine 2003 UB313 in thermal wavelengths close to infrared and not visible to the naked eye. There its "heat signature" could be measured and subtracted from the total sunlight that reached it. The difference was the reflectivity.

"We took two measurements and got a consistent solution," Bertoldi said in a telephone interview. "We've done this many times over the years, and it's a very secure way of measuring the size of an object" when the object is either too small or too far away to be analyzed easily by a traditional optical telescope.

A team of researchers led by the California Institute of Technology's Michael E. Brown reported the discovery of 2003 UB313 last summer. It was the most distant object ever seen in the solar system, a chill sphere cloaked in water and methane ice, and circling the sun in a highly eccentric orbit 44 degrees off the plane where most of the planets dwell.

Brown nicknamed the new discovery "Lila," after his baby daughter, but permanent naming awaits a decision by the International Astronomical Union, which is also trying to decide how to define a planet.

This, it appears, is heavy going. One school agrees with Bertoldi that the Pluto tradition should be upheld, but another suggests that Pluto, 2003 UB313 and other denizens of the Kuiper Belt beyond Neptune are not planets but a new class of smaller objects -- ice dwarves unlike either the terrestrial planets of the inner solar system, among them Earth, or the outer "gas giants" such as Jupiter and Neptune. There is no clear leader in the debate.

"Until they decide whether it's a planet or not, we don't know how to name it," Brown said in a telephone interview. "This could go on for years."

Source (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/01/AR2006020101979.html)