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Space Science

New Frozen World Found Beyond Pluto 763

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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  • Is it really? (Score:5, Informative)

    by joyoflinux ( 522023 ) <> on Monday October 07, 2002 @01:05PM (#4403824)
    This article [] at TheAge disputes whether this object is really a planet...
  • Re:Is it really? (Score:3, Informative)

    by gabec ( 538140 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @01:18PM (#4403963)
    they also found this thing years ago.. well... known that it was out there for a while, just not exactly where. here's a page [] talking about it in Feb 2000, for example.
  • Re:Aw shucks (Score:5, Informative)

    by PD ( 9577 ) <> on Monday October 07, 2002 @01:19PM (#4403983) Homepage Journal
    It's pronounced Qwa O Wahr. Three syllables.
  • by An Ominous Cow Erred ( 28892 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @01:20PM (#4403996)
    Uhh... It's since been discovered that there are most likely more than a few asteroids with satellites out there. We already know of several.

    The earliest discovered one being Ida's satellite, Dactyl, which the Galileo probe took some very nice pictures of on its way to Jupiter.
  • by Ektanoor ( 9949 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @01:20PM (#4403997) Journal
    It may make sense. Some good years ago, Dr. Van Flandern published several weird ideas about our solar system. He mentioned that some weirdnesses seen on certain asteroids pointed to the fact that they could have satellites. He was demonished for this theory but Galileo probe did find such an asteroid in its way to Jupiter. Sincerly, Pluto is too big for an asteroid and too small for a true planet. But still no one real could classify the real edge between planets and small bodies... So I wouldn't be admired to see this new object also bouncing between both terms.

    For UFO manhunters/bashers: note that VF was once the director of the U.S. Naval Astronomy, and one of the guys who help find Charon. Since Richard Hoagland started to search for hyperpyramids in the closet, he suffered some bad publicity, but still, his researches are quite important because they are in the edge of Science and some have had positive results recently.
  • One minor nitpick... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Cu ( 75342 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @01:21PM (#4404004) Homepage
    If it is a planet, it orbits the sun once per year. It just has longer years.
  • Re:Is it really? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Pedrito ( 94783 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @01:24PM (#4404037)
    Yeah, they're still trying to decided if Pluto is a planet. Really, though, it's a matter of semantics. Either way, it's a big rock that circles the sun. That can be said about a few of the other planets.

    It's still a cool discovery.
  • Meaning of the name? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Winterblink ( 575267 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @01:37PM (#4404182) Homepage
    Did a little Googling, found the following definition of Quaoar. Don't know if it's real or not. *shrug*

    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 IvyMike ( 178408 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @01:45PM (#4404238)

    Everybody knows that the planets are supposed to be named after the Roman gods. That's just the way it is. Here's a list of some of the more common Roman gods []. I'm sure some of the Hercules and Xena fans out there can add to this list.

    Personally, I like:

    • Minerva, better known by her greek name as Athena. Just because it sounds cool. She sounds like she might be a hottie, too.
    • Somnus, the god of sleep. Because of course a planet that far away from the sun must be asleep.
    • Bacchus, the god of free beer. Just because I like free beer.
  • by Guppy06 ( 410832 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @01:49PM (#4404263)
    I could have sworn that Cronus was the Greek name for Saturn.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 07, 2002 @01:49PM (#4404271)
    Actually, this newly found celestial body is not a planet at all, much less a "10th planet" ... It's just a Kuiper belt object, which happens to be rather large. Quaoar further strengthens the theory that Pluto is not a conventional planet but rather a Kuiper Belt object. "Quaoar definitely hurts the case for Pluto being a planet," said planetary scientist Mike Brown, co-discover of the new object. "If Pluto were discovered today, no one would even consider calling it a planet because it's clearly a Kuiper Belt object." [] While traditionally classified as a planet, Pluto is more likely is a Kuiper Belt object that was pushed into an erratic, Neptune-crossing orbit billions of years ago, according to astronomers and people with even remedial common sense. You can read up on Pluto here []
  • by SQL Error ( 16383 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @01:55PM (#4404318)
    Minerva and Bacchus have already been used for asteroids.
  • by cje ( 33931 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @02:06PM (#4404417) Homepage
    Here is a link to the Quaoar FAQ [], maintained by Chad Truijillo, one of the planet's co-discoverers. There's a lot of cool stuff there, including the discovery images (animated so you can see it moving across the star field), the Hubble images, information about the orbit, etc.
  • Re:The bigger issue (Score:3, Informative)

    by JWW ( 79176 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @02:23PM (#4404550)
    By definition planets orbit the Sun, thus Jupiter's moons are not planets as they orbit Jupiter.
  • by mfnickster ( 182520 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @02:29PM (#4404595) reference is my foggy memory of some dusty Arthur C. Clarke books. It's not like it would be tough to figure it out.

    In other words, you're too lazy to look it up or do the math before you post! ;-)

    The speed of light in a vacuum is 300,000 km/s (not meters), or 18,000,000 km/min.

    So, here is the actual (approximately) factual information on Jupiter:

    • Distance to sun: 5.2 AU / 777,908,924 km / 43 light-minutes
    • Max. dist. from Earth: 6.2 AU / 927,506,794 km / 51.5 light-minutes
    • Min. dist. from Earth: 4.2 AU / 628,311,054 km / 35 light-minutes

    Of course, all of these vary at apogee, perigee, etc. - but not by much, so cut me some slack! At any rate, you're only off by an order of magnitude or so.

    So this new body, at a distance of 6 billion km from the sun, would be about 333 light-minutes or 5.5 light-hours away. Wow.

    - MFN

  • by kalidasa ( 577403 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @02:29PM (#4404596) Journal

    Pluto is the threshold case. At the moment, it seems to be the conventional wisdom that anything found that's larger than Pluto will have to be considered for planet status, and anything smaller for planetoid/asteroid/comet status. Quaoar would thus not be a planet. But who knows? The important thing is that a solar system can have these kinds of objects:
    Stars (Sun)
    Brown dwarfs (none known in our system)
    Gas giants (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune)
    Terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars)
    Asteroids (Ceres, Vesta, Pallas, etc.)
    Kuiper-like objects (Pluto, Quoaoar, maybe Chiron)
    Comets (maybe Chiron, Halley, etc.)
    Terrestrial moons (the Moon, Io, Europa, Titan, Iapetus)
    Kuiper-like-object-like moons (Charon, maybe Triton)
    Asteroid-like moons (Phobos, Deimos, Amalthea)
    Dust lanes and planetary rings
    Protostars, protoplanets, protoplanetary disks

    As you can see, the star/planet/asteroid/comet/moon classification isn't quite detailed enough for what we now know.

  • Re:Is that the name? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anselor ( 65755 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @02:31PM (#4404615) Homepage
    This is from the University of Arizona: s/hypo.html#planetx []

    Planet X was theorized as a possible cause for large deviations in Uranus's orbit. The discovery of Pluto was directly related to this Planet X theory.
  • by Rand Race ( 110288 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @02:36PM (#4404648) Homepage
    It's taken []:

    399 Persephone

    This main belt asteroid is approx 52 km in diameter and was discoveredby M Wolf at Heidelberg in 1895. This first determination of the spin period was made from 6 nights ofobservations (by Col Bembrick) over a time span of 6 weeks, representing 58 rotations of the asteroid.The large amplitude of the light curve approx 0.4 magnitudes implies a considerable irregularity in theshape of this asteroid.

    Personally I would think Minerva would be a better fit being a Roman goddess, but that's an asteroid too.

  • Sorry folks, its just some bird crap on the telescope. No self-respect 21st century discovered planet would follow an orbit proposed in a dark old century where people who lived on a flat Earth in a geocentric solar^H^H^H^H^H geo system.
  • by Jugalator ( 259273 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @03:19PM (#4405001) Journal
    - Around half the size of Pluto (and there's been dispute if Pluto is a planet).

    - 5% of the sky was looked at before finding Quaoar, so there might very well be a dozen more Quaoar-sized "planets" in the Kupier belt. Even Pluto-sized planets might be out there.

    - Water, methane, methanol, and carbon dioxide ice seem to exist on Quaoar.

    - Quaoar's name isn't decided yet and its designation is 2002 LM60 until a name is officially decided upon in a few months.

    - Quaoar is pronounced "kwah-o-wahr" and is the name of a great force of creation among the Tongva people.

    - Quaoar is 42 AU from Earth, while Pluto and Neptune are both 30 AU from Earth. 1 Astronomical Unit = One "Sun to Earth" distance.

    - If standing on Quaoar, what one would see at the Sun (and the Earth) would be what happened 5 hours ago, since light takes 5 hours to travel to Quaoar.

    - A Space Shuttle would need 25 years to travel to Quaoar.

    - Google News about Quaoar [].
  • by PhxBlue ( 562201 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @03:25PM (#4405055) Homepage Journal

    Feh. Astrology accounted for Chiron when it was discovered back in the seventies. For that matter, astrology accounted for Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto after their respective discoveries. Whether you believe in astrology or not, you can count on people writing papers and books to describe what effects Quaoam (or Qualcomm, or whatever. . . damn, what a forgettable name for a planet) will have on their personal lives.

    . . .or maybe astrology won't account for it. Most astrologers still don't account for precession of the earth's axis and the presence of Ophiucus in the Zodiac. . . so ya never know.

  • Re:Is that the name? (Score:2, Informative)

    by CoffeeJedi ( 90936 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @03:35PM (#4405126)
    For those of you who don't stay up til 5am listening to Art Bell, here's a good primer on all the "Planet X" garbage assembled by Phil Plait. .html []
  • by BlakeStone ( 539519 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @03:50PM (#4405267)
    The names were not chosen randomly, even from within the Roman list. Mercury(the messenger) was named for its speed(88-day orbit), Venus(goddess of love) for its beauty, Mars(war) for its blood red color. Jupiter(Zeus) was the ruler of the universe and the brightest of the nighttime planets. Cronus(Saturn) was Zeus' father & former master of the universe, until Zeus overthrew him. When Uranus was discovered in the 18th century, it was named for Cronus' father, the original lord of the universe(Jupiter is brighter than Saturn is brighter than Uranus). Neptune, in the 19th century, was named for the god of the ocean because of its deep blue color.

    Pluto was so named for two reasons. 1) To honor Percival Lowell, whose initials are the first two letters of the name. 2) Pluto(Hades) was god of the dead, and the astronomers knew that the new planet must have a very bleak, desolate, Hades-like environment. (Well, as Hades-like as anything 400 degrees below freezing can be ;-).

    So, IMHO, when they name it, planet or not, the name should be appropriate, i.e. not Artemis! ;-).
  • by Jugalator ( 259273 ) on Monday October 07, 2002 @07:08PM (#4406651) Journal
    - Varuna was discovered in 2000 and measures 1,000 kilometers in diameter.
    - Ixion was discovered in 2001 and is thought to be of similar size as Quaoar and Varuna.
    - .. and Quaoar itself has actually been imaged in 1982 - 2001 but not detected as a planet until now. How embarassing. :-)
  • by helix400 ( 558178 ) on Tuesday October 08, 2002 @12:06AM (#4407996) Journal
    Here's a link to a nice graphic comparing the sizes of Pluto-Charon to numerous Kuiper objects. (BTW, the graphic doesn't yet show Ixion, but the prior poster already mentioned that it's roughly the size of Varuna.) ml []

    Its amazing to see that at least 8 good sized Kuiper objects have been found since 1995, with three big ones (Varuna, Ixion, and Quaoar) being discovered in the last three years. It makes you wonder how many more objects we'll find in the next few years.

  • by mumkin ( 28230 ) on Tuesday October 08, 2002 @01:59AM (#4408321) Journal
    It's not just the larger asteroids that have names, and they're certainly not all from ancient mythology. Check out this list of minor planetary bodies []. It's a long read, but there are some real gems. Lots of dead Greeks, of course, masters of dusty literature, music, science, etc. Seems like almost every city, state, and country has a minor planet named for it. Those who don't can be content to be represented by (6000) United Nations.

    Perhaps most apropos to note in this forum are asteroids (9965) GNU, (9885) Linux, (9793) Torvalds and (9882) Stallman (all spotted and named by the Kitt Peak Spacewatch crew []).

    Childhood fairytales include (14014) Munchhausen, (17627) Humptydumpty, (1773) Rumpelstilz and (5405) Neverland. (2675) Tolkien and (2991) Bilbo are memorialized in minor planetary names as well.

    Luminaries of Science fiction are well-represented by planetary bodies such as (5020) Asimov, (9766) Bradbury, (21811) Burroughs, (4923) Clarke, (6371) Heinlein, (12284) Pohl, and (7758) Poulanderson.

    (4659) Roddenberry is accompanied by (9777) Enterprise, (26734) Terryfarrell and the dreaded (2913) Horta (2362).

    The (3325) TARDIS is floating out there somewhere too, as is (18610) Arthurdent.

    (13681) MontyPython and the circus are flying around -- (9617) Grahamchapman, (9618) Johncleese, (9619) Terrygilliam, (9620) Ericidle, (9621) Michaelpalin, and (9622) Terryjones.

    (291) Alice may (or may not) be the young friend of (6984) Lewiscarroll -- along with (6042) Cheshirecat, (6735) Madhatter, (17518) Redqueen, (17942) Whiterabbit, (9387) Tweedledee and (17681) Tweedledum.

    Beware the (7470) Jabberwock, my son (the jaws that bite, the claws that catch) beware the (9781) Jubjubbird and shun the frumious (9780) Bandersnatch!

    Both (4386) Lust and (3162) Nostalgia might be served by a visit to (12382) Niagara Falls. Don't tell (10515) Old Joe.

    Hollywood has a presence in space, with (25930) Spielberg and (7032) Hitchcock, (11548) Jerrylewis, (11419) Donjohnson, (20789) Hughgrant and (12050) Humecronyn. (13070) Seanconnery stars as (9007) James Bond.

    Too many cool ones to list all at once, but I have to mention (8147) Colemanhawkins, and (6318) Cronkite. There's the trio of (5048) Moriarty, (5049) Sherlock and (5050) Doctorwatson, followed by (5051) Ralph.

    Have some (29700) Salmon.

"The following is not for the weak of heart or Fundamentalists." -- Dave Barry