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Small World Discovered Far Beyond Pluto

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the NSA-surveillance-probe-already-dispatched dept.

Space 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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Discovered by Rick Sanchez (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46588601)

Of Rick and Morty.

Re:Discovered by Rick Sanchez (1)

hubie (108345) | about 6 months ago | (#46589689)

I've really taken a liking to that show. It is hilarious.

Re:Discovered by Rick Sanchez (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46590177)

Sounds nasty

Dwarf-like? (4, Insightful)

aardvarkjoe (156801) | about 6 months ago | (#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?

Re:Dwarf-like? (1)

ChromaticDragon (1034458) | about 6 months ago | (#46588759)

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?

Re:Dwarf-like? (2)

xevioso (598654) | about 6 months ago | (#46588803)

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? (3, Informative)

durrr (1316311) | about 6 months ago | (#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? (4, Insightful)

Frobnicator (565869) | about 6 months ago | (#46589007)

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...

Re:Dwarf-like? (1)

able1234au (995975) | about 6 months ago | (#46589435)

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).

Re:Dwarf-like? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46590519)

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 whose orbit was created by a yet unknown object. Finding more of these objects and piecing the orbits together will give us better insight. One less probably theory is that it was another planet way out there. But a more likely theory is that it was influenced by another star that came too close, such as our sun may have ripped some objects from the other stars solar system, or these objects were influenced within the cluster that created our sun. Finding many more of these objects could help us piece together what the conditions were like when our sun was forming. Such as how dense it was in relation to other stars forming. How many stars were in that cluster, and my even give us insight into pinning down what stars formed with our sun. So yes, each of these objects is a very important discovery. So it IS a big deal.

Re: Dwarf-like? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46590955)

Perhaps Niburu or Nemesis?

Re:Dwarf-like? (1)

captainpanic (1173915) | about 6 months ago | (#46590899)

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 going on.

Contrary to popular belief, scientists get excited when observations do not match the current theories (they're often accused of defending the old models).

Some more about these 'detached objects' can be found on wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D... [wikipedia.org]

Re: Dwarf-like? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46591955)

Climate scientists sure as hell don't get excited, because then it's time for the doubters/skeptics/crazies/disagreers-on-what-to-do-about-global-climate-change to start haranguing

Re:Dwarf-like? (1)

Urkki (668283) | about 6 months ago | (#46593591)

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.

Re:Dwarf-like? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46588931)

Let me give you a nickel's worth of free advice: go fuck yourself with a butcher knife and die.

Re:Dwarf-like? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46590193)

Sorry pal, that's only two cents worth.

Re:Dwarf-like? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46589075)

And so we could stop being pestered with these non stories. They found another rock out somewhere, looks like a rock on Earth.

Quickly Data, bring it up on the main view screen. Scan for life forms. Raise planetary shields.

Oh it's pixel sized. Never mind.

Re:Dwarf-like? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46589963)

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?

A "dwarf planet" is not a "planet". That is just the first of about a dozen MAJOR problems with the definition the IAU adopted.

Re:Dwarf-like? (1)

lbmouse (473316) | about 6 months ago | (#46591667)

They prefer "little planet".

Re:Dwarf-like? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46592037)

Off-topic, but I've never understood the official preference by disability rights activists for "little people" over "dwarves". Maybe it's the fantasy influence, but dwarves always seemed cool; proud and fighty. While "little people" seems deeply patronising and fay; fairies and pixies and leprechauns, "ah, to be sure, 'tis the little people."

Miners and warriors, drinking and fighting and singing and fucking. Or delicately little fairies, flitting about forests, collecting nectar and granting wishes. One of these is empowering, one isn't.

Re:Dwarf-like? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46595717)

They prefer "little planet".

actually, its "Planetly Challenged"

It's a trap (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46588633)

It's Niburu

Graveyard of broken ships... (1)

TWX (665546) | about 6 months ago | (#46588637)

Maybe Commander Koenig will have to save us...

Re:Graveyard of broken ships... (1)

mrego (912393) | about 6 months ago | (#46594129)

Your sig sucks: It is PL/I !! One as in Roman numeral I. There never was a PL/1.

Is this the Planet X? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46588657)

I saw it on a Duck Dodgers episode.

Pluto (5, Informative)

sharknado (3217097) | about 6 months ago | (#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.

Re:Pluto (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46588735)

There are rocks in space, NEWS AT 11 !
just like the closer asteroid belt, there are other areas with space rocks orbiting the sun
why did they call it a "world"? are asteroids or comets "worlds" too?

Re:Pluto (1)

RoverDaddy (869116) | about 6 months ago | (#46593893)

My personal definition would be "if you can stand on it, it's a world". If you the best you can do is float next to it and even the slightest touch bounces you away, it's not a world. Hardly scientific, but it gets the point across.

Re:Pluto (1)

hubie (108345) | about 6 months ago | (#46594099)

That definition would be consistent with The Little Prince [wikipedia.org]

Re:Pluto (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46706397)

My personal definition would be "if you can stand on it, it's a world".

Good luck standing on Jupiter. Or would you not consider that a world?

Re:Pluto (1)

gatkinso (15975) | about 6 months ago | (#46589427)

Thanks for Googling that for me (seriously)!

Re: Pluto (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46590337)

Good point about it being tiny compared to Pluto, but I still hope they consider it a planet to piss off th Republicans since they don't believe in other planets.

maybe Disney names this one (5, Funny)

turkeydance (1266624) | about 6 months ago | (#46588721)

it's a small world after all.

Re:maybe Disney names this one (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46588769)

Goddam....

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.

Re:maybe Disney names this one (1)

michelcolman (1208008) | about 6 months ago | (#46595097)

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

Oh great, now it's running through my head. Thanks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46588739)

how about no... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46598017)

...useless shitstack detected! Aborting....

Disney knew it all along. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 6 months ago | (#46588785)

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.

Thanks for the warning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46588833)

I wouldn''t want to run into this thing at the speed I'd be going when I think there's nothing to run into out there. But if you can give me the exact orbital parameters, that'd be great.

Re:Thanks for the warning (1)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about 6 months ago | (#46592075)

But if you can give me the exact orbital parameters, that'd be great.

Second link [minorplanetcenter.net] in the summary.

Minor Planet Center? (3, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | about 6 months ago | (#46588893)

designated 2012 VP 2113 by the Minor Planet Center

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

That's some ellipse... (1)

Grey Geezer (2699315) | about 6 months ago | (#46589015)

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.

Re:That's some ellipse... (2)

kasperd (592156) | about 6 months ago | (#46590681)

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 of other stars would cause a trajectory turning away from the sun. But what is that distance? More than 1000 AU it seems.

Links... (3, Informative)

SternisheFan (2529412) | about 6 months ago | (#46589103)

NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03... [nytimes.com]

Discovery of Planetoid Hints at Bigger Cousin in Shadows

By KENNETH CHANGMARCH 26, 2014

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. Trujillo and Dr. Sheppard point out that the orbits of Sedna and 2012 VP113 have similarities to those of several other Kuiper belt bodies, which could be a sign of an unseen planet’s gravitational influence.

Computer simulations showed that the similarities could be explained by a planet with a mass five times that of Earth about 23 billion miles from the sun, too dim to be seen.

Harold F. Levison of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., who models the beginning of the solar system, agreed that this was a possibility. “I think they’ve convinced me there’s something going on,” he said of Dr. Trujillo and Dr. Sheppard. “But I think it’s too early to say that it’s a planet.”

The astronomers expect to find more Sednoids in the next few years, which could solve the mystery of their origin. “When we find 10 of them, I’ll tell you what the answer is,” Dr. Brown said.

Los Angeles Times: http://www.latimes.com/science... [latimes.com]

By Amina Khan March 26, 2014, 12:53 p.m.

Astronomers searching for the faintest glimmers of light beyond distant Pluto say they’ve discovered a new dwarf planet – and that this planetoid’s movements hint that an invisible giant planet perhaps 10 times the size of Earth could be lurking around the dark fringes of our solar system.

The new dwarf planet 2012 VP-113, described Wednesday in the journal Nature, helps confirm the existence of an “inner Oort cloud” in an interplanetary no man’s land that was once thought to be empty but could potentially be teeming with rocky denizens.

“We had high hopes, and our hopes were confirmed,” said Scott Sheppard, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution for Science who co-wrote the paper with Chadwick Trujillo of the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii.

2012 VP-113 measures about 280 miles across and comes to within about 80 astronomical units of the sun, or about 7.4 billion miles. (One astronomical unit is the distance between the Earth and the sun.) That’s far beyond the Kuiper belt, an icy field of debris that sits beyond Neptune’s orbit between 30 and 55 astronomical units.

While the dwarf planet is incredibly far out, it’s still not far enough to be part of the Oort cloud, a hypothesized cloud of icy debris that surrounds the solar system’s disc in a spherical shell that stretches a mind-blowing 5,000 to 100,000 astronomical units from the sun. 2012 VP-113’s orbit stretches for a few hundred astronomical units, in what scientists thought was an empty doughnut ring of space between the Oort cloud and the Kuiper belt.

That assumption began to change in 2003 with the discovery of Sedna sitting near the inner edge of this no man’s land. Roughly 600 miles wide, Sedna is big enough to qualify as a dwarf planet. So scientists were puzzled: Was Sedna a freakish one-off, or was it part of a population of rocky bodies in that supposedly empty area – an inner Oort cloud?

An inner Oort cloud would be valuable to study, scientists said, because these objects are so far away from the gravitational pull of either the planets or the distant stars that they’re like a dynamic “fossil” of interplanetary movement in the early solar system.

Sheppard and Trujillo wanted to look for more Sedna-like objects in this area; if they could find more, they’d show that it wasn’t an anomaly.

Looking for such distant, dim objects is not easy. Unlike the distant stars in the night sky, rocks don’t make their own light. So the astronomers have to look for faint, moving glints of reflected sunlight off these distant bodies. That means the sun’s rays have to travel all the way out to this dark, cold interplanetary fringe and then come all the way back to us.

The researchers used the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) on the NOAO 4-meter telescope in Chile and scanned the sky looking for such dim, slow-moving objects. After months of analysis, the scientists picked up on an intriguing signal in the sky.

“It was the slowest moving thing I’d seen in the discovery process, so immediately I knew it was interesting,” Sheppard said of finding 2012 VP-113. “It was very exciting to know that you’ve discovered this object that’s way out there.”

The scientists estimated that there could be about 1,000 objects in the inner Oort cloud with diameters of 1,000 kilometers or greater – and some of them could be as large as Mars.

What’s more, Sedna and 2012 VP-113 seem to be making their closest approach to the sun at similar angles – which could mean that there’s a giant planet out there, tugging at both of their orbits in the same way. This ghost planet could be from 1 to 20 Earth masses, Sheppard said, though it’s still also possible that the dwarf planets were pulled there by the tug from a passing star in the sun’s early history.

“It’s not a complete explanation, but it’s a possible explanation,” said UCLA astronomer David Jewitt, who first discovered Kuiper belt objects and was not involved in the new discovery.

Astronomers will have to find far more of these distant objects and catch enough of them traveling in the same direction before they can say whether a giant planet is lurking in the inner Oort cloud, Jewitt said.

“It isn’t watertight,” he added, “but it’s very, very interesting.”

Nature: http://www.nature.com/news/dwa... [nature.com]

No-Man's Land? (4, Funny)

HtR (240250) | about 6 months ago | (#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?

Re:No-Man's Land? (1)

gatkinso (15975) | about 6 months ago | (#46589433)

Just no men. Lot's of women tho.

Re:No-Man's Land? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46589709)

Lot is? Lot was? Something belongs to the lot?

Re:No-Man's Land? (1)

steelfood (895457) | about 6 months ago | (#46597605)

That's where they're going to send ship B.

The Bases (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46589425)

Meine Damen und Herren, the perfect place for all our bases have been discovered.

Some noteable geographical features... (1)

coughfeeman (608160) | about 6 months ago | (#46589483)

...include 3 small volcanoes and a glass dome containing some dead plant material.

1 year (-1, Troll)

gerardrj (207690) | about 6 months ago | (#46589935)

I thought all planetary orbits were 1 year; it's sort of the definition of a year. Did they mean 11,400 Earth years?

Re:1 year (1)

kasperd (592156) | about 6 months ago | (#46590707)

I thought all planetary orbits were 1 year; it's sort of the definition of a year. Did they mean 11,400 Earth years?

If you want to use that sort of definition, then how old would you say the universe is? The universe doesn't orbit the sun or any other star. And you can't say it is 13800 million earth years old either, since the earth hasn't been orbiting the sun for that long. And how far is a lightyear, if the duration of a year depends on where you are?

When a year is mentioned without any other context, it means the time it currently takes the earth to orbit the sun.

Re:1 year (1)

gerardrj (207690) | about 6 months ago | (#46615113)

Sorry, I forgot Earth is the center of the universe and all measurements of scale and time are related to it. Silly me requesting that science article be clear, concise and accurate.

DON'T FEED THE TROLL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46615603)

Sorry, I forgot Earth is the center of the universe and all measurements of scale and time are related to it.

Strawman.

Re:1 year (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46704731)

Everyone in the fucking world understands what was meant by 11,400 years in the context of TFA, including you.

You were just trying to be a smart arse, then you spat your dummy out when you were called on it.

Really? (1)

bloggerhater (2439270) | about 6 months ago | (#46590999)

People like you are why I stopped visiting /. . How on earth does asking such an elementary question rather than googling it contribute to the conversation? How often do you shoehorn semicolons into your posts? I bet you googled how to use THOSE.

Frankly, I'm surprised this nonsense didn't get up-moded.

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46591343)

People like you are why I stopped visiting /. .

I take it you're a bot that manages bloggerhater's account then.

Re:1 year (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46616897)

Die, you fucking homo.

Mutant Chronicles? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46590023)

Sounds like they found Nero we need to keep the Brits away from it, the world is not ready for the Dark Symmetry.

I know what it is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46591733)

It's the Mass Effect Conduit for the Sol system.

New Horizons in 2015 (1)

The_Human_Diversion (3564171) | about 6 months ago | (#46591803)

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]

Douglas Adams already discovered this (1)

DrStoooopid (1116519) | about 6 months ago | (#46593657)

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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