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Small World Discovered Far Beyond Pluto 63

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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  • Dwarf-like? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aardvarkjoe ( 156801 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @06:58PM (#46588627)

    Dwarf-like? Is this planet like Dopey, or more like Thorin Oakenshield?

    Didn't we just go through this whole rigmarole of redefining Pluto as a "dwarf planet" so we could use that as a real term for bodies like this?

    • What will be LOADS OF FUN is the hilarity which will ensue if their hunch is correct that the orbit of this new dwarf planet and Sedna hint at the existence of a planet further out which is several times the mass of Earth.

      Are dwarf planets supposed to be BIG?

      • by xevioso ( 598654 )

        As the WISE spacecraft was sent up specifically to look for these sorts of possible large planets, and found nothing after an extensive search, it would be amusing indeed. But it's highly unlikely.

        • Re:Dwarf-like? (Score:4, Informative)

          by durrr ( 1316311 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @07:46PM (#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

        • Re:Dwarf-like? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Frobnicator ( 565869 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @07:54PM (#46589007) Journal

          Not really news.

          When Eris, MakeMake and Sedna were accepted in the IAU's list they already had about 50 more 'probable dwarf planets' inside the Kuiper belt. The following year the list of 'probable dwarf planets' grew to nearly 400.

          The estimated number is about 10,000 dwarf planets in our solar system. Hopefully we won't have big news announcements for each one. But hey, slow news days need something...

          • Not really news? Guess that is why you are not a journalist. Once they discover the many other dwarf planets then it will stop being news but a finding like this is a big deal. The other dwarf planets are not confirmed. Until then, this is newsworthy as it is confirmation of that hypothesis.

            We keep finding more comets and they are relatively common but most of them are news and there are multiple newsworthy comets a year reported (and many other little ones not reported).

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Actually, this is big news. Because if you looked a bit deeper than just the headline, you'd realize why this discovery is important and why many more will be very important. Sedna has one of the oddest orbits in the solar system. No other known object has an orbit like it. Every object known in the Kuiper belt has their orbits influenced by Neptune. Sedna was obviously influenced by something way beyond the Kuiper belt. This new dwarf planet has a very similar orbit to Sedna. This is now the second object

          • The difference is that, together with Sedna, this is only the 2nd object found so far out.

            From what I understood, the importance of this is that it may shed a new light on how the solar system came to be. I thought that the general theory of small dwarf planets in weird orbits is that they were flung into that orbit by the larger planets that passed by them at some point in the past. However, Sedna and the new object are so far out that they don't cross any orbit of a larger planet. So, something else is go

      • by Urkki ( 668283 )

        What will be LOADS OF FUN is the hilarity which will ensue if their hunch is correct that the orbit of this new dwarf planet and Sedna hint at the existence of a planet further out which is several times the mass of Earth.

        Are dwarf planets supposed to be BIG?

        The hypothised big planet would probably be a planet, not a dwarf planet, considering how it is hypothized it is herding these smaller bodies.

    • by lbmouse ( 473316 )

      They prefer "little planet".

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's Niburu

  • Maybe Commander Koenig will have to save us...
  • Pluto (Score:5, Informative)

    by sharknado ( 3217097 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @07:02PM (#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.
  • by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @07:09PM (#46588721)
    it's a small world after all.
    • by Anonymous Coward


      Now it's going to take days to get that out of my head again.
      Just that line alone is enough to wake the beast.

    • It's probably just a publicity stunt for the 50 year anniversary of It's a Small World.

  • They have been blasting Its a small world after all (the planets) for ever to the waiting line for Magic Mountain or whatever is their roller coaster ride.
  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @07:40PM (#46588893) Journal

    designated 2012 VP 2113 by the Minor Planet Center

    The org name makes them feel inferior to the Gas Giant Center, but better-smelling.

  • If I'm reading it correctly, a 76 X 1000 ellipse. Kind of like some comets, except that it never reaches the inner (or outer) solar system. Maybe we need to redefine a few things.

    • by kasperd ( 592156 )
      NASA announced that Voyager 1 entered interstellar space, when it was about 127 AU from the sun. It is believed that it was travelling in the direction where the distance to interstellar space is shortest. It is significantly longer distance going in the opposite direction. So this newly detected dwarf planet may be spending most of its time in interstellar space, but not all of it.

      Maybe we need a name for the region of space in which there are stable orbits around the sun. At some distance the gravity o
  • Links... (Score:4, Informative)

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

    Discovery of Planetoid Hints at Bigger Cousin in Shadows


    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

  • by HtR ( 240250 ) on Wednesday March 26, 2014 @08:14PM (#46589135)
    > a presumed no-man's land that may turn out to be anything but.

    So, the suggestion is that there are people out there?
  • ...include 3 small volcanoes and a glass dome containing some dead plant material.

  • I'm pretty excited for the New Horizons project, as I know quite a few of the people at APL who are working on it. With any luck it will give us a lot of new insights to Pluto and its moons, and maybe even have expanded mission goals after the flyby.

    New Horizons at WIKI [wikipedia.org]
  • Rupert
    A planet in Earth's solar system beyond the orbit of Pluto. Rupert was named Persephone, but nicknamed Rupert after an astronomer's pet parrot. It was eventually settled by the Grebulons.

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