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Space Science

New Frozen World Found Beyond Pluto 763

Posted by timothy
from the delightfully-free-of-tourists dept.
theBrownfury writes "BBC, Sydney Herald, and the Indian Express are reporting a new object, which is one-tenth the diameter of the Earth, and lies well beyond Pluto in an area of the Solar System known as the Kuiper Belt. The new world, which has been dubbed Quaoar, is about 1,280 kilometres (800 miles) across. Quaoar orbits the sun ever 288 years and is 1250 Km wide, about the size of all the asteroids combined. This discovery is being hailed as the most important solar system discovery in the past 72 years."
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New Frozen World Found Beyond Pluto

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  • Will it stay named? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Astin (177479) on Monday October 07, 2002 @01:05PM (#4403830)
    After all, they threatened to delist Pluto as a planet.

  • Dimensions (Score:4, Interesting)

    by red_dragon (1761) on Monday October 07, 2002 @01:06PM (#4403839) Homepage
    ... The new world, which has been dubbed Quaoar, is about 1,280 kilometres (800 miles) across. Quaoar orbits the sun ever 288 years and is 1250 Km wide, about the size of all the asteroids combined.

    So which one is it? 1280? 1250? Both? Neither? CowboyNeal?

  • Funny (Score:2, Interesting)

    by enkidu55 (321423) on Monday October 07, 2002 @01:09PM (#4403859) Homepage Journal
    You'd think with an object that is the size of all the other Kuiper belt asteroids combined, somebody would have noticed it floating around out there.

    In a related news quote from the LINEAR research team "Holy Shit, did you see the size of that rock floating out there!"
  • Great name! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ravagin (100668) on Monday October 07, 2002 @01:13PM (#4403907)

    Quoth BBC:


    Astronomers named the new object Quaoar, after the creation myth of the Tongva people who inhabited the Los Angeles area before the arrival of the Spanish and other European settlers.

    I happen to think that that is way groovy. It's about time some other ancient belief systems got in on the planet-naming! :)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 07, 2002 @01:15PM (#4403938)
    What I am wondering about is what that discovery was in 1930 that was so important... Was it; Venus taking more days to spin around its axis as it does around the sun??

    Hmm...
  • by Prince_Ali (614163) on Monday October 07, 2002 @01:15PM (#4403943) Journal
    Why abandon a perfectly good naming convention? How about Vulcan?
  • by Tablizer (95088) on Monday October 07, 2002 @01:17PM (#4403962) Homepage Journal
    is made up of nine planets .... er ... Our solar system is made up of ten planets ...

    It is sometimes said by astronomers that our solar system is made up of the Sun, Jupiter, and bunch of other little clutter. The mass of the rocky planets, and even the smaller gas giants is dismal compared to Jupiter.

    The borderline between planet and asteroid is blurry. We might as well stop counting at Pluto out of tradition. However, if something bigger than Pluto is found out there, then the debate will heat up again.

    Hmmmmm. I wonder if the Sun is even the brightest star out at the distance of Qu...... whatchmacallit. I would guess that it still is. Although Sun is not a big star, Q is still far closer to it than others.
  • by havaloc (50551) on Monday October 07, 2002 @01:19PM (#4403981) Homepage
    In 'Mostly Harmless', a tenth planet was discovered. In the story it was named Persephone, but it was more commonly known as Rupert, which was the name of the astronomer's (who discovered it) parrot. With this discovery, the science of astrology could be set back years. What happens if you were born while Rupert was in your tenth house of Mars, etc.
  • What makes a planet? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Fugly (118668) on Monday October 07, 2002 @01:24PM (#4404040) Homepage
    What makes an object a planet? Size? The presence of its own sattelites? An atmosphere? What separates planets from large asteroids?

    It seems to me the astronomy community can't decide. How hard can it be? It's an arbitrary classification that doesn't actually mean anything. It's all just hunks of rock orbiting the sun. It's a classification that doesn't actually mean anything. Somebody just make a decision and let's all stick to it. It's annoying not knowing how many planets have been discovered in our own solar system.
  • by wytcld (179112) on Monday October 07, 2002 @01:26PM (#4404059) Homepage
    See this note from the American Museum of Natural History [amnh.org] on the controversy and their suggested conclusion [amnh.org], along with National Geographic's account of the demotion [nationalgeographic.com].

    So, if all we have with this new thingie is the second largest Kuiper Belt object after Pluto - so what? Isn't the news play just about trying to get more funding from the fine fellows who've identified it, which is more likely if the headlines scream "Tenth Planet!" What a cynical abuse of the press. Science should stop grubbing, and strive for purity of purpose, lest the results themselves be corrupted. Prostitution just isn't the same as free love.

  • Gravitational Wobble (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Punk Walrus (582794) on Monday October 07, 2002 @01:28PM (#4404079) Journal
    I thought that Kepler thought there was another planet outside of Neptune's orbit based on gravitational wobble, and when Pluto was discovered in 1938, a lot of scientists went, "Nahh... that's too small. There's got to be another, much larger one to create that kind of wobble." And the debate continues.

    I had this theory that a much larger planet is further out, but is very dark in color, and thus it hasn't been seen by albedo, and no one was looking in the right place to see it eclipse out other stars.

    Of course, I haven't taken a course in astronomy since the 1980s, and I may be totally missing something obvious ("If that were true then the Hubble's Heisenburg Compensator would have found it, duh!"), but I have always thought if I wanted the *correct* answer to something I should post something obviously wrong on Slashdot.

    ____________________
    I had a Heisenberg-mobile, but every time I looked at the speedometer, I got lost [punkwalrus.com].

  • by cryptochrome (303529) on Monday October 07, 2002 @01:31PM (#4404125) Journal
    If it's a planet, give it a proper name from the list of the major Roman gods. When they named Pluto they suggested the following (from Appolonius.net [apollonius.net]). I vote for Baccus, god of wine and mysteries, or secondly Cronus.:

    The naming of Pluto is a story by itself. Early suggestions of the name of the new planet were: Atlas, Zymal, Artemis, Perseus, Vulcan, Tantalus, Idana, Cronus. The New York Times suggested Minerva, reporters suggested Osiris, Bacchus, Apollo, Erebus. Lowell's widow suggested Zeus, but later changed her mind to Constance. Many people suggested the planet be named Lowell. The staff of the Flagstaff observatory, where Pluto was discovered, suggested Cronus, Minerva, and Pluto. A few months later the planet was officially named Pluto. The name Pluto was originally suggested by Venetia Burney, an 11-year-old schoolgirl in Oxford, England.
  • Re:Is it really? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Atzanteol (99067) on Monday October 07, 2002 @01:32PM (#4404133) Homepage
    That's because the term "Planet" is rather loosely defined. Nobody has ever really set a lower-limit on the size of a planet. Asteroids are 'small bodies' that orbit the sun. Planets are 'larger bodies' that orbit the sun. Pluto is smaller than our Moon, yet many still consider it a planet simply because it orbits the Sun.

    This new object will have difficulty becoming a 'Planet' by name.
  • Re:More Naming Crap (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ektanoor (9949) on Monday October 07, 2002 @01:34PM (#4404155) Journal
    No, they are probably afraid of naming it Nemesis - the Death Star. There are some theories about the Sun having an older sister in the form of a brown dwarf. Some consider alternatively the existence of a planet somewhat bigger than Jupiter. They use these theories to explain the episodical extinctions on Earth, supposedly caused by swarms of Kuiper belt comets falling inside the Solar system. This hypothetical "star/planet" is supposed to be much far away than Quaoar. Some theories give its orbit the fantastic period of 3 million years, and some consider it the reason why we can't find it...

    Well, probably some academical SF. They, sometimes, are also good writers...
  • lies, damn lies! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by CodeMunch (95290) on Monday October 07, 2002 @01:40PM (#4404204) Homepage
    Quaoar orbits the sun ever 288 years

    No, it orbits the sun once per year, just like everyone else. It just equates to 288 earth years :P

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 07, 2002 @01:41PM (#4404217)
    If I recal correctlly Charon is part of the reason pluto was potentiall being reclassified as a planitoid. The Gravatational effects of Charon where strong eough that Pluto and Charon had a combined orbit around the sun whihc the two fo them orbit. (basically the center of gravity for the combined gravatational effects of each object was not below the surface of pluto but was actually above it. so)

    Now it's been a while since I read this so it could be debunked or just disregarded by now.
  • by LMCBoy (185365) on Monday October 07, 2002 @01:59PM (#4404362) Homepage Journal
    What makes an object a planet?

    That's a tough question.

    Size?

    Yes. Generally, a body should be large enough that gravity makes it roughly spherical, before it can be considered a planet. However, this is apparently a necessary-but-not-sufficient criterion.

    The presence of its own sattelites?
    No. See Mercury and Venus.

    An atmosphere?
    No. See Mercury.

    How hard can it be? It's an arbitrary classification that doesn't actually mean anything.

    You just answered your own question. It's hard to draw the line between planet and non-planet precisely because the line is arbitrary and has no real meaning.

    I think we should just call it a planet if it (1) orbits a star directly; (2) is massive enough to be roughly spherical; and (3) is not so massive that it is either a brown dwarf or a star. However, please note that this definition would include the asteroid Ceres, which is generally not considered a planet...maybe it should be.
    (Ceres is 900 km in diameter, compared to this new one's 1250-km diameter).
  • by devphil (51341) on Monday October 07, 2002 @02:03PM (#4404388) Homepage


    is Persephone. (per-SEF-oh-nee) This would be the chick from Greek mythology that ate the pomogranate seeds and thus had to stay in Hades for half the year (when the world grows cold), and gets to come out the other half (when the world warms up again).

    Most of the SF and speculative fiction/nonfiction articles over the last few decades have all referred to a tenth planet as Persephone, on the assumption that we would continue naming major astronomical objects for ancient mythological figures.

  • by kalidasa (577403) on Monday October 07, 2002 @02:17PM (#4404504) Journal

    Interestingly there are a few problems with the name Persephone. All of the major planets are named for Roman gods; Persephone is the Greek name for the goddess in Latin called Proserpina.

    Second, there is the suggestion that Clarke (or maybe Asimov) made before Charon was discovered: he suggested that Pluto's moon, if one were ever discovered, be named Persephone, and that the name Charon be given to any trans-Plutonian planet, with I think Cerberus being reserved for any moons of that planet. That way someone from outside the system would have to pass Charon and Cerberus (or maybe it was Styx) to get to Pluto and Persephone.

    See the Space Telescope Institute's Press Release [stsci.edu] for more information about Quaoar; on the name, this link [angelfire.com] may be of use; it looks like Quaoar is a name from mythology, albeit indigenous American mythology, which makes it consistent with the names of the minor planets and moons (which do not need to be named after Roman gods; the moons of Uranus are even named after characters from Shakespeare : e.g., Oberon and Titania from Much Ado About Nothing, and Ariel and Miranda from The Tempest).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 07, 2002 @02:45PM (#4404720)
    In Portuguese, Quaoar sound awfully close to something like an invitation to stick your ass in the air! (I kid you not!!!!)
  • by Hinkkanen (536643) on Monday October 07, 2002 @02:45PM (#4404723) Homepage

    H.P. Lovecraft writing about the discovery of Pluto in a letter dated April 1st 1930:

    One wonders what it is like, & what dim-litten fungi may sprout coldly on its frozen surface! I think I shall suggest its being named Yuggoth!

    Selected Letters III (p. 136)

  • Quaoar Means.... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by briglass (608949) on Monday October 07, 2002 @03:09PM (#4404919)
    Quaoar: Their only god who "came down from heaven; and, after reducing chaos to order, out the world on the back of seven giants. He then created the lower animals," and then mankind. Los Angeles County Indians , California
  • by NeuroManson (214835) on Monday October 07, 2002 @03:17PM (#4404983) Homepage
    Didn't the term for small planets used to be "planetoid"? Just above an asteroid, or just below a planet, seems to be the appropriate terminology...
  • Re:"Sol" (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 2nd Post! (213333) <gundbear&pacbell,net> on Monday October 07, 2002 @04:48PM (#4405715) Homepage
    On the other hand, the sun has been called Sol for much longer than it has the sun, and as such is the reason why we name them solar eclipses, solar systems, solarized films, etc.

    Language is *flexible*.

    For the same reason that 'Photoshopping' is a verb, 'Sol' is the name of our sun. People use it, and the term sticks.

    In a similar vein:

    Sol
    Luna
    boxen
    unices
    Linux (over GNU/Linux)
    Doh
    phat
    slashdotted
    owned/0wnz3d
  • Re:tenth planet (Score:2, Interesting)

    by fenix down (206580) on Monday October 07, 2002 @06:47PM (#4406532)
    Persephone really is a better name. Generally, all the planets are named after gods that at least have something in common with the planet.

    Mercury: messenger god, it moves fast
    Venus: god of beauty, it's pretty
    Mars: god of war, it's red
    Jupiter: king of the gods, it's big
    Saturn: Jupiter's dad, also big, I guess, although there's probably something else I'm missing
    Uranus: god in exile, it's far away
    Neptune: sea god, it's blue
    Pluto: god of the underworld, it's cold and dark
    Quaoar: force that created animals and people???

    Persephone was Pluto's wife, who he tricked into marrying him, and is allowed to return to earth every year, causing the seasons via her mother, Demeter, who makes it cold while she's gone and warm when she's arround. Honestly, I think she works better for Pluto, since it comes closer than Neptune some of the time, but it's better than Quaoar for #10.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 08, 2002 @06:35AM (#4408835)
    Can't find the referances off hand, but IIRC, the ancient Sumerian's and possibly others had traditions of there being 10 planets in our solar system. Although the evidence may be open to interpretation, it is still an interesting claim. A quick go at google got me http://seekers.100megs6.com/ufoman4.htm, which has a bit of information on it. Anyone got a more reliable url ?

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