Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Any More Out There?

Okay, did I manage to discover anything about more potential dwarf planets? With most (except Ceres) so far from us, scientists often have to piece together bits of information from several different sources. Even Hubble telescope doesn’t do them much good, because all it showed of Pluto (the biggest dwarf) was a fuzzy blob. So, let’s see what they’ve jigsawed together so far:
It doesn’t have a name yet. But those who discovered it think they are close to deciding on one.
The designation means it was discovered in 2007, but it was only recently discovered that it was much bigger than originally thought. It is the 3rd largest dwarf, right behind Pluto and Eris, at a diameter of 955 miles [1535 km]. Its surface is very dark (the better to soak up what little sunlight it gets?) and reddish, and it rotates slowly - one day there is just under 45 hours long. They think it might be covered in volatile ices of methane, carbon monoxide and nitrogen.
OR10 has an elliptical orbit, which seems to be in fashion, that brings it close to Neptune’s orbit, but it is currently twice as far from the sun as Pluto. How far out does it go? I don’t think they’ve figured that out yet. I found no indication how long it takes to complete an orbit around the sun.
But if you really want to know the weird part about OR10, NASA’s information page stated there had been a hint of vegetation on its surface. What do you think? Some kind of lichen or what? I don’t think palm trees would grow there very well.
2015 RR245
Again, no name yet. It was discovered in 2015. The animation I found about its orbit shows that it gets to Neptune’s orbit, but then skedaddles far, far away, taking 700 years to make one trip around the sun. Its size is 435 miles [700 km], so it’s not a huge dwarf. It will make its closest approach to the sun on this trip in 2096.
What little I found on Sedna was mostly from 2004. (You’d think they would have found out more by now.) When it was discovered, Sedna was 8 billion miles [13 billion km] from Earth, 3 times as far as Pluto. It’s red, thought to be about 1,400 miles [2,250 km] in diameter, and there is some evidence it has a moon. It takes 10,000 years to travel around the sun. It’s very bashful, though - maybe that explains its blush? It will get slightly closer in the next 50 years, but still won’t be anywhere near Pluto when it starts heading back for the Inner Oort Cloud. (Strangely, the Oort Cloud was described as ‘hypothetical’, but it shows up on all my star navigation charts.)
Discovered in 2002, Quaoar (pronounced kwa-whar, the name of a Native American god) lies 621,372,292 miles [1,000,000,000 km] beyond pluto in a circular orbit. Maybe it hopes to grow up to be a ‘real’ planet. It has a ways to go, with a diameter of 808 miles [1300 km]. Quaoar is also known as 2002 LM60.
I’d actually forgotten about Sedna and Quaoar, it had been so long since they had been in the news. That’s all I’ve got this week. If you still haven’t heard enough about dwarf planets, try the website , which is updated daily by Mike Brown, an astronomer who seems to be right in the midst of discovering a lot of them. Some of it may be over your head (it certainly was for me), but check it out: as of 10/16/16, he listed 10 nearly certainly, 30 highly likely, 75 likely, 147 probably, and 695 possibly dwarf planets.
Wow! What a big family!

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