Many folks would like to see us back on the Moon and developing its resources.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Astronomers discover 'new planet'

Astronomers have detected what could be the Solar System's 10th planet.

It was first seen by astronomers using California's Mount Palomar Observatory, and has been given the name "Sedna" after the Inuit goddess of the ocean.

Observations show it measures about 1,180-2,360km (730-1,470 miles) across, making it similar in size to Pluto.

Astronomers now say they have evidence that Sedna has its own moon, although this needs to be confirmed, and is also very red in colour.

There is likely to be some debate about whether it qualifies as a true planet, but some scientists are already saying it re-defines our Solar System.

Further than Pluto

Sedna, or 2003 VB12, as it was originally designated, is the most distant object yet found orbiting our Sun. It is three times further away than Pluto (average distance to the Sun is 5.9 billion km or 3.6 billion miles).

It was discovered using the Mt Palomar facility in November by astronomers from the California Institute of Technology, Yale Observatory and the Gemini Observatory.

Dr Mike Brown of the California Institute of Technology, US, leader of the research team that found the body, said he did not believe it was a true planet.

He suggested this "planetoid" is about half rock and half ice mixed together, but further work is needed to verify this.

The scientists say that its rotation on itself is relatively slow, suggesting it could have a satellite in orbit around it.

Follow-up studies by the Tanagra Observatory have measured the thermal radiation coming from Sedna to determine how hot it is, and therefore provide some estimate of its size.

Researchers believe that Sedna's surface temperature is about -240 degrees Celsius (-400 degrees Fahrenheit).

>> More at the BBC site. - LRK -

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