Friday, July 29, 2005

Is it "Planet X"?

Well, probably not, but a team of astronomers has discovered a distant icy body larger than Pluto, long regarded as the ninth planet of the solar system. Like Pluto, this new discovery (which as of yet has the boring name of "2003 UB313") belongs to the Kuiper Belt, a collection of icy remains from the formation of the Solar System.

While most planets orbit the sun in a flat disk called the ecliptic, this new Kuiper Belt Object is at quite an angle, nearly 45 degrees out line! It is also quite far away, nearly 100 times the Earth-sun distance, and twice as far from the sun as Pluto.

This discovery is sure to re-open the whole "is Pluto a planet?" debate. But, at the very least, Clyde Tombaugh, the discoverer of Pluto, can be said to have discovered the first object in the Kuiper Belt 21 years before Gerard Kuiper hypothesized its existance!

More information on 2003 UB313 can be found here.

No comments:

Post a Comment