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Space Science

Asteroid Lutetia Revealed As a Protoplanet 102

Posted by Soulskill
from the planetary-life-begins-at-accretion dept.
astroengine writes "Asteroids visited by spacecraft have all turned out to be piles of rubble or chunks broken off of larger bodies, but that's not the case with 21 Lutetia, a 75-mile long, 47-mile wide body orbiting in the main belt of asteroids between Mars and Jupiter. Europe's comet-bound Rosetta probe flew by Lutetia last year and gave scientists a big surprise. With its dense body and an interior that seems to have survived intact, the large asteroid appears more like a protoplanet — a leftover building block from the formation of the solar system."
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Asteroid Lutetia Revealed As a Protoplanet

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  • by ackthpt (218170) on Friday October 28, 2011 @01:37PM (#37871080) Homepage Journal

    Demoted to "Dwarf-Protoplanet" by a minority of IAU in a meeting held after all the sensible people have left the conference ...

    • by Dunbal (464142) *
      There is always a group of people willing to re-classify everything in the hopes that the mere act of doing this either a) causes some real science to fall out, like loose change from the pockets of people being shaken on fairground rides or b) causes some other people to think that what they are doing is actually important. Coming from the medical field, I really don't give a damn if you call it (non-politically acceptable) mental retardation or (politically acceptable, current) chronic non progressive enc
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        See, if you actually worked in the medical field and weren't just full of shit, you would care. Politically correct or not, what we used to refer to as "mental retardation" actually encompassed of a wide variety of distinct medical conditions. Chronic non progressive encephalopathy is absolutely not the politically correct modern equivalent (that would be developmentally disabled) but in fact a specific term for a specific medical condition. It's pretty fucking important for a doctor to distinguish betwe

        • ...that would be developmentally disabled...

          I prefer "developmentally delayed", in part because I think it is more accurate.

        • "Developmentally disabled" isn't the same thing as "mentally retarded". You can have a developmental disability and not be intellectually impaired. Developmental disabilities can also be phyiscal, and they need not involve intellectual impairment. (They could involve cognitive or perceptual impairment.)
      • by blair1q (305137)

        "mental retardation" used to be the politically-correct term. over time, the association catches up with it, and it becomes the pejorative term.

        same deal with racial terms. only a matter of time before abuse by people who simply have a bad attitude towards other colors of skin make any words assocaited with it sound like slurs.

        the solution is to stop changing the name of it and start changing the attitude of those who observe it.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          "mental retardation" used to be the politically-correct term. over time, the association catches up with it, and it becomes the pejorative term.

          same deal with racial terms. only a matter of time before abuse by people who simply have a bad attitude towards other colors of skin make any words assocaited with it sound like slurs.

          the solution is to stop changing the name of it and start changing the attitude of those who observe it.

          Political Correctness seeks to validate Orwell, thinking that the words you use shape your thinking. But in a freer world, the road runs both ways.

          Often, however, it isn't the words you say, it's the way you say them that make the difference.

        • by turing_m (1030530)

          It is the same deal with racial terms - and it's not bad attitude on the part of the observer so much as it's that the association with other non-skin color aspects of the phenotype that catches up with whatever word you choose to call the rose. Propensity for criminality, for example.

          We've had half a century or more of increased attempts to change the attitude of those who observe it. In 2011 it's impossible to turn on a television or open a newspaper without being hit with an attempt to modify the viewer'

    • by jd (1658)

      Since dwarf is already used, wouldn't the IAU use "pixie" to denigrate it further?

      • by meerling (1487879)
        Then that opens up the whole field to "faerie" planets, and I have no idea what that would be. (But I bet it sparkles.)
        • by ackthpt (218170)

          Then that opens up the whole field to "faerie" planets, and I have no idea what that would be. (But I bet it sparkles.)

          "... we announce the faerie planet Tinkerbell."

          Ummmm.

          • by jd (1658)

            We know that gold arrived on Earth via asteroids and that dead white dwarf stars form diamond planets, so sparkly faery planets seems reasonable to me.

            I hereby name the diamond planet that was announced recently on Slashdot "Tinkerbell" in honour of ackthpt's suggestion.

            • by ackthpt (218170)

              We know that gold arrived on Earth via asteroids and that dead white dwarf stars form diamond planets, so sparkly faery planets seems reasonable to me.

              I hereby name the diamond planet that was announced recently on Slashdot "Tinkerbell" in honour of ackthpt's suggestion.

              As theorized by Ironequatorialmount Stronginthearm in his paper "Gold gold gold gold gold ... (246 pages later) ... gold gold gold." And yes, that was only the title.

    • by pugugly (152978)

      Actually promoted when it's found there's nothing else near it's orbital path.

    • Pluto shouldn't be classified a planet, as it doesn't share a lot of properties with them. First it's not a celestial body but 2. Second, its orbit is elliptical, as opposed to the circular orbit of the planets, and not in the ecliptic. Also, it's very small, smaller than the Moon.

      • You're making fourth graders everywhere very sad with your hatin'.

        Renaming it a dwarf doesn't change the actual object that "The Planet Pluto" refers to, and somehow astronomers managed not to be confused about that latter point for a rather long time. Even now, if I call Pluto a planet, I'll bet you understand perfectly well what object I'm referring to. I think that is what was being sardonically observed in one of the comments earlier about the renaming not, actually, being science any more than ren
        • by Anonymous Coward

          You're making fourth graders everywhere very sad with your hatin'.

          I happen to have a fourth grader at home who has learned that there are 8 planets. Pluto is just another iceball out past Neptune as far as she is concerned.

        • by Hentes (2461350)

          It's not like there are so very many objects out there orbiting our sun that we actually NEED more adjectives or taxonomic categories.

          What about other stars? With all the exoplanets being discovered, we know of significantly more planets now and the number is increasing.

          • And hence, one day, we may need COMPLETELY DIFFERENT classifications than we now have, and the designation "Dwarf Planet" may turn out not to be one of them. Besides which, I'm half kidding. Heck, I've even mastered Apatosaurus, I can cope with the cognitive dissonance I feel when I read Heinlein and read about the "Nine Planets Symphony" and my mind cringes with the knowledge that there are only eight planets because Pluto got reclassified. Of course next they'll take Mercury away, or they'll add Cere
            • by Hentes (2461350)

              You, sir, are a worthy opponent. But there are, in fact, nine planets, as predicted by the Titus-Bode law [wikipedia.org], it's just that the one between Mars and Jupiter is a bit scattered. Also, if we are talking about Big Rocks, then there are only four.

              • Big rocks? What is at the core of the gas giants isn't well-understood, but they probably have rocky cores larger than the inner planets.

                Besides, the chart in Titus-Bode article shows ten planets, you can't reasonably leave out Ceres if you want to call Pluto a planet. A few problems with calling Pluto a planet is it fits better as a TNO, KBO, or both. It crosses Neptune's orbit and its orbital plate is at an extreme angle to the planetary disc. If you want to keep Pluto, then we'd need to also count la

                • by Hentes (2461350)

                  A few problems with calling Pluto a planet is it fits better as a TNO, KBO, or both.

                  That's what I was saying, read back.

                  Besides, the chart in Titus-Bode article shows ten planets, you can't reasonably leave out Ceres if you want to call Pluto a planet.

                  Yes, the "ninth planet" predicted by the law is not Pluto but the asteroid belt.

                  It crosses Neptune's orbit and its orbital plate is at an extreme angle to the planetary disc.

                  It does not cross Neptune's orbit exactly because of the angle to the ecliptic. It does get sometimes closer to the Sun though.

      • by RockDoctor (15477)

        Pluto shouldn't be classified a planet, as it doesn't share a lot of properties with them.

        Well, that's a viable form for an argument. Let's examine your claims then.

        First it's not a celestial body but 2.

        Two bodies? Not four?

        Let's try your criterion elsewhere :

        • "Mars is not a planet, because it's not the one body that it's discoverer (Ugh, unpublished work carved on a cave wall, 238532 BP) thought, but three (Phobos and Deimos, discovered about 80BP by some dude with a telescope)."
        • "Neptune is not a plane
        • by Hentes (2461350)

          Two bodies? Not four?

          On a side note, I think there is also a fifth unnamed object, but that doesn't matter. The difference between Charon and a moon is that Charon is not much smaller than Pluto, in fact it doesn't orbit Pluto. Rather, the two bodies orbit their common centre of mass outside of Pluto.

          Well, what is your line in the sand for Pluto being "too eccentric" (e=0.249)? If you draw the line at e>0.2 (in base 10 ; why do you choose base 10?), then you exclude Mercury (e=0.206) ; if you draw the line at e>0.05 then you exclude Mars and Saturn too. Choose a line to draw, then (this is the hard bit) justify it and persuade other people that your justification is good.

          You got me here, I forgot about Mercury. But Pluto's orbit is such that there are times when it gets closer to the Sun then Neptune, which would make it hard to class it as the "ninth" planet.

          We can examine the inclination argument too. Here the order of increasing inclination is Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, Neptune, Uranus, Earth, Ceres, Pluto, which would make the Earth the next of the planets to be discounted in a countdown.
          I don't accept this as a valid criterion for rejecting Pluto as a planet.

          You make a qualitative argument not a q

          • by RockDoctor (15477)

            Two bodies? Not four?

            On a side note, I think there is also a fifth unnamed object, but that doesn't matter. The difference between Charon and a moon is that Charon is not much smaller than Pluto, in fact it doesn't orbit Pluto. Rather, the two bodies orbit their common centre of mass outside of Pluto.

            That the barycentre of the system lays outside either body is a fair point, but begs the next question : when you have 2 stars (say Alpha Centauri and it's secondary) which orbit their system's barycentre out

    • Asteroids can hurt. I say we can get rid of them with Prep H.

    • by arisvega (1414195)

      To my understanding, proto-planet is a clump of matter that hasn't been locked into being a planet yet, but it is about to.

      As in proto-star: a blob of gas that is still contracting.

      To the best of my knowledge, calling this a proto-planet is wrong.

  • You go stumbling around in the dark and end up stepping on a few. The damned things get everywhere.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      FYI: It's just "Lego"

  • by camperdave (969942) on Friday October 28, 2011 @01:55PM (#37871314) Journal

    21 Lutetia, a 75-mile long, 47-mile wide body orbiting in the main belt of asteroids between Mars and Jupiter.

    This is a science article on a science website. Why is there only two dimensions listed for a three dimensional object, and why are those dimensions measured in miles?

    • This is a science article on a science website. Why is there only two dimensions listed for a three dimensional object, and why are those dimensions measured in miles?

      It's an "educational" article.

    • Obviously based on the information given in the problem the thickness is negligible so the body can be reasonably aproximated to a planar figure.

    • by ackthpt (218170) on Friday October 28, 2011 @02:05PM (#37871490) Homepage Journal

      21 Lutetia, a 75-mile long, 47-mile wide body orbiting in the main belt of asteroids between Mars and Jupiter.

      This is a science article on a science website. Why is there only two dimensions listed for a three dimensional object, and why are those dimensions measured in miles?

      It's flat ... and carried on the backs of four enormous hippopotami (there were five, but one slipped and impacted into the surface of Lutetia) on the back of a giant newt.

    • That means there is an implied symmetry that was not mentioned. If you knew that all such objects were oval in shape then a third dimension would be redundant.

      • by blair1q (305137)

        If you knew that an oval is a plane figure, then the third dimension would be nonexistent, not redundant.

        I think you mean ovoid or ellipsoid or prolate or cylindrical or bonelike.

        Which is what 99% of scientific and non-scientific minds would assume.

        The other 1% would be smartasses who would try to slip oblate, flattened, or disclike past us, but we ain't buying any of that weak sauce today.

        • by Toonol (1057698)
          Why is ovoid (potato) shaped more likely than oblate (squashed)? Is it more likely that 1 dimension is longer than the other two, than that one dimension is shorter than the other two?

          It seems like that breaks symmetry, but I don't recall ever seeing an asteroid shaped like a flattened beachball.
    • Well they were only looking at a photo so could only measure 2 sides.

      As for miles, well, I can't help on that one. Perhaps the rulers in their offices only had inches, and they had to scale up from that?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Take note stupid editors : if you see ridiculous imperial units, you blew it.
    95% of the world population does not know what the heck a mile is.

    SI units for the win (and sanity).

    • by wsxyz (543068)
      Most of the world population doesn't read Slashdot.
      The majority of Slashdot readers know what miles are.
    • as Slashdot is a US based site you will find that things are done using the US conventions

      oh btw if you are all that smart then you have access to a convertor to metric units (or can do it in your head ) hint 1 mile = 1.609344 kilometers

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Many of the articles I've read seem to claim that Lutetia has a molten core [msn.com]. I don't see how that could possibly be the case. It may have once had a molten core, but it would have solidified billions of years ago.
  • It sounds like a prime candidate for asteroid mining.

    • by GNious (953874)

      Note description - is miles long and wide, but seeming very thin. Not practical for mining.

    • by gmuslera (3436) *
      Could be too far for mining, so probably will end being a good candidate to become our second moon (while supplies last) in a century or so.
  • Bad enough that Kirk's son messed with the stuff, now we have a bunch of it orbiting our sun. Seriously even Klingon scientists have denounced the use of protomatter.
  • Heh. We're not sure what a planet-planet is yet.

  • If this thing got smaller, it's not nearly Pluto, so Pluto isn't nearly it (the reflexive property is how I roll), so those who campaigned to demote Pluto are full of retroactive spacecrap.

    I want Pluto back where it belongs.

  • Why do they keep saying "left over from the formation of the solar system? Who's to say it isn't still forming? Give the proto planet a few more eons and maybe it'll make something of it's self.
    • by RockDoctor (15477)

      Give the proto planet a few more eons and maybe it'll make something of it's self.

      It's got between a half an eon and five eons more, then the lights go out and it's going to have to find it's way around in the dark.

  • I had an idea, posted to Andrea Rossi's Journal site related to LENR cold fusion, that the core of the Sun is iron/nickel (as suggested in the "Iron Sun Theory" which says the sun only has hydrogen at the surface, like the Earth has water and oxygen at the surface but if hard underneath) just like the core of the Earth has a lot of nickel and iron, and the nickel is constantly ejecting neutrons at the boundary from quantum tunneling effects, which in turn then fuse back with the nickel via the Rossi/Focardi

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