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Small World Discovered Far Beyond Pluto 63

Posted by Soulskill
from the NSA-surveillance-probe-already-dispatched dept.
astroengine writes: "After a decade of searching, astronomers have found a second dwarf-like planet far beyond Pluto and its Kuiper Belt cousins, a presumed no-man's land that may turn out to be anything but. How Sedna, which was discovered in 2003, and its newly found neighbor, designated 2012 VP 2113 by the Minor Planet Center, came to settle in orbits so far from the sun is a mystery. Sedna comes no closer than about 76 times as far from the sun as Earth, or 76 astronomical units. The most distant leg of its 11,400-year orbit is about 1,000 astronomical units. Newly found VP 2113's closest approach to the sun is about 80 astronomical units and its greatest distance is 452 astronomical units (abstract). The small world is roughly 280 miles (450 kilometers) wide, less than half the estimated diameter of Sedna."
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Small World Discovered Far Beyond Pluto

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  • Pluto (Score:5, Informative)

    by sharknado (3217097) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @06:02PM (#46588669)
    For those wondering, Pluto has a diameter of 2302km and ranges 30 - 49 AU from the sun. So these rocks range from 2 to 20 times as far from the sun as pluto, and the one mentioned in this post is about 1/133 the volume.
  • Re:Dwarf-like? (Score:4, Informative)

    by durrr (1316311) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @06:46PM (#46588937)

    Something just a few times the mass of earth would've been outside the detection range.

    >WISE was not able to detect Kuiper belt objects, as their temperatures are too low.[19] It was able to detect any objects warmer than 70–100 K. A Neptune-sized object would be detectable out to 700 AU

  • Links... (Score:4, Informative)

    by SternisheFan (2529412) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @07:08PM (#46589103)
    NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03... [nytimes.com]

    Discovery of Planetoid Hints at Bigger Cousin in Shadows

    By KENNETH CHANGMARCH 26, 2014

    Astronomers have discovered a second icy world orbiting in a slice of the solar system where, according to their best understanding, there should have been none.

    “They’re in no man’s land,” Scott S. Sheppard, of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, said of the objects, which orbit far beyond the planets and even the ring of icy debris beyond Neptune known as the Kuiper belt.

    Intriguingly, the astronomers said that details of the orbits hint at perhaps an unseen planet several times the size of Earth at the solar system’s distant outskirts.

    The new planetoid, an estimated 250 miles wide, is now 7.7 billion miles from the sun, about as close as it gets. At the other end of its orbit, the planetoid, which for now carries the unwieldy designation of 2012 VP113, loops out to a distance of 42 billion miles. Neptune, by contrast, is a mere 2.8 billion miles from the sun.

    Much farther out, a trillion miles, the solar system is believed to be surrounded by a sphere of icy bodies known as the Oort cloud, where many comets are thought to originate. But between the Kuiper belt and the Oort cloud, astronomers had expected empty space.

    In 2003, astronomers unexpectedly discovered the planetoid Sedna, orbiting the sun beyond the Kuiper Belt, an area of frozen objects just outside Neptune’s orbit. Astronomers have now discovered a second object in this region, which has the current designation 2012 VP113.

    Source: Scott S. Sheppard/ Carnegie Institution for Science The discovery, by Dr. Sheppard and Chadwick A. Trujillo of the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii, is reported in the journal Nature.

    For convenience, the scientists shortened the 2012 VP113 designation to VP, which in turn inspired their nickname for the planetoid: Biden, after Vice President Joseph R. Biden. Dr. Trujillo said they had not decided what to propose for the official name.

    The existence of 2012 VP113 could help explain why there is anything out there at all.

    In the 2000s, when Michael E. Brown, an astronomer at the California Institute of Technology, scanned the outer solar system, his biggest discovery was Eris, a ball of ice in the Kuiper belt that was Pluto-size or slightly bigger, the impetus for the demotion of Pluto to dwarf planet.

    Dr. Brown’s oddest discovery, however, came a couple of years earlier: Sedna, a 600-mile-wide planetoid also beyond the Kuiper belt, three times as far from the sun as Neptune. Its 11,400-year orbit stretches farther than that of 2012 VP113.

    In the youth of the solar system, there would not have been enough matter out there to coalesce into something as large as Sedna. It was too far out to have been flung by the gravitational slings of big planets, but too close to have been nudged by the gravitational tides of the Milky Way.

    Having found one such body, astronomers expected to quickly find more, and they came up with a name for them: Sednoids. But for years, no one found any.

    For the latest search, Dr. Trujillo and Dr. Sheppard used a 13-foot telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. In November 2012, they spotted a moving point of light beyond the Kuiper belt — 2012 VP113. Follow-up observations last year confirmed it was a Sednoid. Scientists have come up with various ideas to explain such bodies. Dr. Brown, for one, thinks the Sednoids were pushed there when the sun was part of a dense cluster of stars — “a fossil record of the birth of the solar system,” he said.

    Others suggest that a rogue planet, ejected from the inner solar system, dragged the Sednoids along as it flew through the Kuiper belt. Dr

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