Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars… 2003UB313

I’m curious if 1) this really is a new planet and 2) what the name of it shall be.

Congrats to those blokes at Caltech, who are always doing the coolest things.

Caltech astronomer finds solar system’s 10th planet
By Gina Keating

A California astronomer has discovered what he believes is the 10th planet in our solar system, a group of NASA-funded researchers said on Friday.

The new planet, known as 2003UB313, has been identified as the most distant object ever detected orbiting the sun, California Institute of Technology astronomer Michael Brown said.

Brown and colleagues Chad Trujillo and David Rabinowitz have submitted a name for the planet to the International Astronomical Union and are confident it will be designated a planet. Brown did not reveal the proposed name. [full story]

4 Replies to “Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars… 2003UB313”

  1. The thing is, many astronomers think Pluto is too small to be considered a “major” planet. IIRC, anything orbiting the Sun is considered a planet, but only the largest are “major” planets. Asteroids such as Ceres are considered “minor” planets or planetoids.

    Now that we know Pluto is really a binary system (with its moon Charon almost as big as Pluto itself), more than a couple folks think that we were too hasty to call Mr. Tombaugh’s 1930 discovery a major planet. These folk generally think of Pluto as a really big minor planet or planetoid.

    Of course these Pluto-isn’t-a-planet folk don’t have a chance of re-classifying the distant rock. It’s entered our popular culture (just ask Disney) and I’m sure Congress would dissolve NASA before allowing them to cut into Disney’s profits.

    The problem is this new planet is 1.5 times bigger than Pluto, but that’s still not big enough for the Pluto-is-too-small crowd.

    Oh, what to do, what to do?!? Should we use the “Pluto is the smallest acceptable size for a planet” argument, thus adding this planet to the nine others listed in most school books? Or do scientists make a stand, saying “No more misclassifying!”, and declare this is a minor planet, even if “major” planet Pluto is actually smaller?

    Add to this confusion that there’s likely to be many more (and even larger) bodies found out in the Kuiper belt, where this new planet was found. So any decision made about this new discovery will likely impact decision regarding these as-yet-undiscovered planets.

    Oh, and don’t forget about Sedna:

    http://www.gps.caltech.edu/~mbrown/sedna/

    As for naming 2003UB313, I like “Planet X”, but they’ll probably name it “Bush” just so their funding isn’t cut.

  2. I would name the planet Appollo since he kind of got screwed in the first waves of planet namings.

    (I’d love to be re-added to the blogroll…)

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