Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Space Earth NASA News Science Technology

Pluto Is Emitting X-Rays (digitaltrends.com) 106

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Trends: Scientists have noticed the tiny trans-Neptunium object emitting X-rays, which, if it is confirmed, is both a baffling and exciting discovery. Carey Lisse and Ralph McNutt from Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and a team of colleagues detected the X-rays by pointing the Chandra X-Ray Obervatory telescope in Pluto's direction four different times between February 2014 and August 2015. Seven photons of X-ray light were detected during these observations, confirming the team's hypothesis that the dwarf planet is detectable on the X-ray spectrum, potentially due to the presence of an atmosphere. Their findings have been published in the scientific journal Icarus. Why is this such a big deal? First of all, it would challenge what scientists have previously believed to be true of Pluto's nature. Until now, the popular description of the dwarf planet is as a tiny ball of frozen rock slowly meandering around the sun some 3.6-billion miles away. One of the possible explanations for why Pluto is emanating X-rays would be that the high energy particles emitted by the sun are stripping away and reacting with Pluto's atmosphere, producing the X-rays that are visible to Chandra. There are other potential explanations, such as haze particles in Pluto's atmosphere scattering the sun's X-rays are possible, though unlikely given the temperature of the X-rays observed. It is also possible that these X-rays are actually bright auroras produced by the atmosphere, but that would require Pluto to have a magnetic field -- something that would have been detected during New Horizon's flyby, yet no evidence of one was found.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Pluto Is Emitting X-Rays

Comments Filter:
  • I literally had to absorb seven quintillion photons from my iPhone to read about seven random photons from Pluto.
  • by Moblaster ( 521614 ) on Saturday September 17, 2016 @06:23AM (#52906679)
    Don't think it is a slow news day around here. Because apparently there are another 10^45 articles prepped and queued for auto-publish this morning about other critical batches of photons we've got to know about.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    So much for all those nay-sayers who thought the Mi-Go would just sit quietly by when we insulted Yuggoth by denying it the full status of a planet. We'll see how the people of Earth stand up to an onslaught of X-Ray photons. 7 is just the beginning, at full power this weapon could probably deliver 20 to 30 in one blast!

  • by ACDChook ( 665413 ) on Saturday September 17, 2016 @06:42AM (#52906753)
    It's a trans-NEPTUNIAN object. Not trans-NEPTUNIUM. Neptunium is an element (Np. Atomic Number 93).
    • by CODiNE ( 27417 )

      Yeah well, it's trans THAT too!
      -Editors

    • by rossdee ( 243626 )

      "Not trans-NEPTUNIUM. Neptunium is an element (Np. Atomic Number 93).
      ""

      Since elemnts with that big a nucleus tend to be radioactive, I am not surprised it would emit x-rays

    • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

      It's a trans-NEPTUNIAN object. Not trans-NEPTUNIUM. Neptunium is an element (Np. Atomic Number 93).

      Its a direct quote from TFA so technically TFA say something like (with my emphasis)

      Scientists have noticed the tiny trans-Neptunium[sic] object emitting X-rays, which, if it is confirmed, is both a baffling and exciting discovery.

      But given that we have script kiddies and not editors, we get what we get.

    • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Saturday September 17, 2016 @09:03AM (#52907053)

      It's a trans-NEPTUNIAN object. Not trans-NEPTUNIUM. Neptunium is an element (Np. Atomic Number 93).

      The term was invented so that cis-neptunian objects can spend the rest of their eons apologizing for their existence.

  • Pluto will always be a planet as far as I'm concerned. The seven photons I could give a shit about.
    • by Greyfox ( 87712 )
      Preach it, Brother! I memorized one fucking mnemonic back in grade school and I really don't want to have to come up with another one! Of course the next headline will probably be that it's not a planet, it's a space station...
      • Preach it, Brother! I memorized one fucking mnemonic back in grade school and I really don't want to have to come up with another one!

        Unclear if you are being sarcastic but is abject laziness really the best argument someone can come up against changing planetary taxonomy?

        I don't really get the furor over how we classify Pluto. It doesn't really matter if it is a bucket we label planets or a bucket we label something else. The point is to label similar objects into sensible categories. If you think the categories are poor ones then come up with a better one. But it is clear that Pluto is definitely something different than the other e

        • by Imrik ( 148191 )

          Laziness is the best argument for using imperial units of measurement and daylight savings time, I say it's good enough for planetary taxonomy as well.

    • I'm disappointed. I scrolled the rest of the comments and didn't find any more top posts from Moblaster. I mean, after the second or third post it was obvious what he was up to -- one post for every photon.
    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      They are interesting, IMHO, and do warrant a proper explanation.

      The statement that "Pluto does not have a magnetic field", I'm not sure how definitively one can say that. It's long been assumed that it doesn't.... which is part of the reason why the magnetometer was cut from New Horizons. So we got no magnetic field measurements during the flyby.

      That said, it's not likely. After all, Pluto did have SWAP and PEPSSI to study particles interacting with / leaving Pluto, and as far as I'm aware they didn't sh

  • One, it should be trans-Neptunian object, even if it isn't trans all the time.
    Two, it's a planet.

    • by CODiNE ( 27417 )

      So it just wears skirts on casual Fridays but pants and a tie the rest of the workweek?

    • The photons didn't arrive all at one time. In fact, it seems to be a code. We have decoded the signal and it seems the message is

      "F.U. TYSON"

      I guess it just took this long for the message to get there and back.
    • You talking to me, porky?

  • Pluto is probably just a defunct spaceship. The emissions are the equivalent of a cellphone calling a base tower now and then.
  • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Saturday September 17, 2016 @12:07PM (#52907599) Journal

    Why all this insistence on mechanisms involving an atmosphere? X-ray tubes don't require gas.

    You get X-rays whenever you abruptly stop or deflect a fast enough charged particle (such as an electron). Pluto is a ("dwarf") PLANET, with no (known) planetary magnetic field to deflect the solar wind or cosmic radiation. Such a BIG solid body, even 'way out there from the sun, should be stopping LOTS of charged particles all the time.

    (Sure, charged particles stop more "abruptly", and thus release more energetic photons, when hitting heavy atoms rather than things like hydrogen. But some of the incoming stuff will be fast enough to emit x-rays even when slamming into the bare photon of a hydrogen nucleus. And then there's the inverse case when an incoming heavy nucleus from cosmic radiation hits an electron.)

    • By the above argument, ANY planet, dwarf planet, moon, or other solid object of substantial size, without a strong magnetic field (which would ALSO be noticeable), should be emitting some x-rays from solar wind and cosmic ray bombardment.

      If this is true, perhaps this x-radiation could be used as a basis for detection of such objects?

  • So many important scientific discoveries start with the phrase "huh, that's weird."

  • emits x-rays after having been hit by the semen rays of her last-night date. So ?

  • that would require Pluto to have a magnetic field -- something that would have been detected during New Horizon's flyby, yet no evidence of one was found.

    New Horizons didn't carry a magnetometer, and thus did not provide evidence for Pluto's magnetic field one way or the other.

  • Pluton ain't no kinda place / to raise your kids. / In fact, it's a frickin' x-ray generator!

    Scansion and rhyming could use some work.

  • 7 photos... Plutonians are just playing with Scotch tape.

e-credibility: the non-guaranteeable likelihood that the electronic data you're seeing is genuine rather than somebody's made-up crap. - Karl Lehenbauer

Working...