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Ladies and Gentlemen, we might have a 10th planet

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LOS ANGELES -- It's icy, rocky and bigger than Pluto. And according to scientists who found it orbiting the sun, it's the newest planet on our solar system's block. The planet _ the farthest-known object in the solar system _ is currently 9 billion miles away from the sun, or about three times Pluto's current distance from the sun.

"This is the first object to be confirmed to be larger than Pluto in the outer solar system," Michael Brown, a planetary scientist at the California Institute of Technology, said Friday in a telephone briefing announcing the discovery.

Brown labeled the object as a 10th planet, but there are scientists who dispute the classification of Pluto as such.

Astronomers do not know the new planet's exact size, but its brightness shows that it is at least as large as Pluto and could be up to 1 1/2 times bigger. The research was funded by NASA.

Brown has submitted a name for the new planet to the International Astronomical Union, which has yet to act on the proposal, but he did not release the proposed name Friday.

The briefing was hastily arranged after Brown received word that a secure Web site containing the discovery was hacked and the hacker threatened to release the information.

Brown and colleagues Chad Trujillo of the Gemini Observatory and David Rabinowitz of Yale University first photographed the object in 2003 using a 48-inch telescope at the Palomar Observatory.

But it was so far away that its motion was not detected until data was analyzed again this past January. It will take at least six months before astronomers can determine its exact size.

It has taken scientists this long to find the planet because its orbit is at an angle compared to the orbits of most planets. The new planet is rocky and icy, similar to Pluto, Brown said.

Alan Stern of the Southwestern Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., said he was not surprised by the discovery since other objects around the size of Pluto have been found in the Kuiper belt, a disc of icy debris beyond the orbit of Neptune.

What's unique about the latest finding is that the object appears to be bigger than Pluto, he said.

"Unless they've made a grave mistake, this is for real," said Stern, who had no role in the discovery.

Picture of the new planet: (circled)


Official NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/vision/universe/solars...905-images.html

Neat, eah? :)

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I am rather open when we come to planets. To me, a planet would be :

A celestial body that do not bear any thermonuclear reaction (as opposed to star) orbits a celestial body that bears such thermonuclear reaction (as opposed to moons), and that has enough gravity to sphericalize itself (as opposed to asteroîdes).

Ceres, Sedna and Quaoar (and Pluto) are clearly planets in this situation.

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Hundreds of years ago people believed that there was a large planet called Vulcan on the edge of our solar system. That idea was used by the creators of Star Trek. I guess they (both the guys 400 years ago and the creators of Star Trek) were right after all :)

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Hundreds of years ago people believed that there was a large planet called Vulcan on the edge of our solar system.

You're pretty close :) According to Wikipedia, Vulcan was believed to be a small planet orbiting between Mercury and the Sun.

Semi-OT: It's struck me as humorous that it's likely more technology, theories, ideas, etc. have been developed based on things that were in episodes of Star Trek than anything else. :D

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  • 2 weeks later...

Science Fiction is called this way because of its peculiar approach to scientific topics. In Sci-Fi movies and books actual and imagined science mix together to create the scientific background of the stories.

But the imagined science is never absurd cause it meets with actual science so creating a somewhat realistic environment.

This means that Sci-Fi can really be a "guide" for scientists... just remember Star Trek communicator that was imagined science in the tv series period, but that now is actual science (cellular phones).

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Well, the difference there, is that the "Starfleet Communicator" is supposed to send "subspace" signals something like 1 million km away. For one thing, we have no idea how to send voice data at superluminal speeds, and we have yet to make a cell phone with a 1 million km range. Both things we'd need to accomplish if we were to properly replicate the Starfleet Communicator. :)

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