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Dwarf planet Haumea shines with crystalline ice

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— The fifth dwarf planet of the solar system, Haumea, and at least one of its two satellites, are covered in crystalline water-ice due to the tidal forces between them and the heat of radiogenic elements. This is the finding of an international research study using observations from the VLT telescope at the European Southern Observatory in Chile.

The tiny and strange planet Haumea moves beyond the orbit of Neptune. It...

— The fifth dwarf planet of the solar system, Haumea, and at least one of its two satellites, are covered in crystalline water-ice due to the tidal forces between them and the heat of radiogenic elements. This is the finding of an international research study using observations from the VLT telescope at the...

New telescope is exploring solar system 'outback'

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— In the outer reaches of our solar system lies a mysterious region far more remote and difficult to explore than the Australian outback. It remains the only part of our solar system not visited by spacecraft. Called the Kuiper Belt, this area beyond Neptune is home to the dwarf planets Pluto, Eris, Makemake, and Haumea. It also harbors thousands of smaller objects that form a second, icy asteroid belt (or more ...

— In the outer reaches of our solar system lies a mysterious region far...

Neptune could not have knocked planetoids in Cold Classical Kuiper Belt to edge of solar system

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— New research by a University of Victoria PhD student is challenging popular theory about how part of our solar system formed. At the October 6 meeting of the Division of Planetary Sciences in Pasadena, California, Alex Parker is presenting evidence that, contrary to popular belief, the planet Neptune can't have knocked a collection of planetoids known as the Cold Classical Kuiper Belt to its current location at the ...

— New research by a University of Victoria PhD student is...

Planet-like object found circling a brown dwarf

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— As our telescopes grow more powerful, astronomers are uncovering objects that defy conventional wisdom. The latest example is the discovery of a planet-like object circling a brown dwarf. It's the right size for a planet, estimated to be 5-10 times the mass of Jupiter. But the object formed in less than 1 million years -- the approximate age of the brown dwarf -- and much faster than the predicted time it takes to ...

— As our telescopes grow more powerful, astronomers are uncovering...

New Hubble maps of Pluto show surface changes

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— NASA has released the most detailed set of images ever taken of the distant dwarf planet Pluto. The images taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope show an icy and dark molasses-colored, mottled world that is undergoing seasonal changes in its surface color and brightness.

Pluto has become significantly redder, while its illuminated northern hemisphere is getting brighter. These changes are most likely consequences of...

— NASA has released the most detailed set of images ever taken of...

Spot Discovered On Dwarf Planet Haumea Shows Up Red And Rich With Organics

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— A dark red area discovered on the dwarf planet Haumea appears to be richer in minerals and organic compounds than the surrounding icy surface.

The discovery will be presented at the European Planetary Science Congress in Potsdam by Dr Pedro Lacerda on Wednesday 16 September.

The spot was discovered by measuring changes in its brightness as it rotates. The origin of the spot is unknown, however its “light curve”, whi...

— A dark red area discovered on the dwarf planet Haumea...

Lower Atmosphere Of Pluto Revealed

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— Using ESO's Very Large Telescope, astronomers have gained valuable new insights about the atmosphere of the dwarf planet Pluto. The scientists found unexpectedly large amounts of methane in the atmosphere, and also discovered that the atmosphere is hotter than the surface by about 40 degrees, although it still only reaches a frigid minus 180 degrees Celsius.

These properties of Pluto's atmosphere may be due to the...

— Using ESO's Very Large Telescope, astronomers have gained valuable...

Fifth Dwarf Planet Named Haumea

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— The International Astronomical Union (the IAU) has announced that the object previously known as 2003 EL61 is to be classified as the fifth dwarf planet in the Solar System and named Haumea.

The decision was made after discussions by members of the International Astronomical Union's Committee on Small Body Nomenclature (CSBN) and the IAU Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature (WGPSN). This now means that...

— The International Astronomical Union (the IAU) has announced that...

Astronomers Find Unusual New Denizen Of The Solar System

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— A "minor planet" with the prosaic name 2006 SQ372 is just over two billion miles from Earth, a bit closer than the planet Neptune. But this lump of ice and rock is beginning the return leg of a 22,500-year journey that will take it to a distance of 150 billion miles, nearly 1,600 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun, according to a team of researchers from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-II).

The...

— A "minor planet" with the prosaic name 2006 SQ372 is just over two...

'Plutoid' Chosen As Name For Solar System Objects Like Pluto

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— The International Astronomical Union has decided on the term plutoid as a name for dwarf planets like Pluto at a meeting of its Executive Committee in Oslo.

Almost two years after the International Astronomical Union (IAU) General Assembly introduced the category of dwarf planets, the IAU, as promised, has decided on a name for transneptunian dwarf planets similar to Pluto. The name plutoid was proposed by the...

— The International Astronomical Union has decided on the term plutoid...

Kuiper-belt Object Was Broken Up By Massive Impact 4.5 Billion Years Ago

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— Still awaiting a more poetic name, 2003 EL61 largely escaped the media hubbub during last year's demotion of Pluto, but new findings could make it one of the most important of the Kuiper-belt objects for understanding the workings of the solar system. In a recent issue of Nature, the original discoverer of the body, Mike Brown, announces with his colleagues that an entire family of bodies seems to have originated ...

— Still awaiting a more poetic name, 2003 EL61 largely escaped the...

Zooming To Pluto, New Horizons Spacecraft Approaches Jupiter

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— Just a year after it was dispatched on the first mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, the APL-built New Horizons spacecraft is on the doorstep of the solar system’s largest planet — about to swing past Jupiter and pick up even more speed on its voyage toward the unexplored regions of the planetary frontier.

The fastest spacecraft ever launched, New Horizons will make its closest pass to Jupiter on Feb. 28,...

— Just a year after it was dispatched on the first mission to Pluto and...

NASA Spacecraft En Route To Pluto Prepares For Jupiter Encounter

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— NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is on the doorstep of the solar system's largest planet. The spacecraft will study and swing past Jupiter, increasing speed on its voyage toward Pluto, the Kuiper Belt and beyond.

The fastest spacecraft ever launched, New Horizons will make its closest pass to Jupiter on Feb. 28, 2007. Jupiter's gravity will accelerate New Horizons away from the sun by an additional 9,000 miles...

— NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is on the doorstep of the solar...

Evidence Mounts For Sun's Companion Star

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— The Binary Research Institute (BRI) has found that orbital characteristics of the recently discovered planetoid, "Sedna", demonstrate the possibility that our sun might be part of a binary star system. A binary star system consists of two stars gravitationally bound orbiting a common center of mass. Once thought to be highly unusual, such systems are now considered to be common in the Milky Way galaxy.

Walter...

— The Binary Research Institute (BRI) has found that orbital...

Researchers Describe Discovery Of Pluto's New Moons

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— In the Feb. 23 issue of the journal Nature, a team led by Dr. Hal Weaver of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., describes its discovery of two new moons around Pluto -- a finding that made the ninth planet the first Kuiper Belt object known to have multiple satellites.

In a companion paper, also in the Feb. 23 Nature, discovery team members led by Dr. Alan Stern of the...

— In the Feb. 23 issue of the journal Nature, a team led by Dr. Hal...

NASA's Spitzer Uncovers Hints Of Mega Solar Systems

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— NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has identified two huge "hypergiant" stars circled by monstrous disks of what might be planet-forming dust. The findings surprised astronomers because stars as big as these were thought to be inhospitable to planets.

"These extremely massive stars are tremendously hot and bright and have very strong winds, making the job of building planets difficult," said Joel Kastner of the Rochester...

— NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has identified two huge...

Measuring Charon: Astronomers Seize Rare Opportunity

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— Being in the right place at the right time gave a group of Massachusetts research astronomers a unique opportunity to study Pluto's largest moon Charon. The resulting measurements, to unprecedented accuracy, of Charon's size and possible atmosphere provide insight into the way this distant world may have formed.

On July 10, 2005, astronomers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge and...

— Being in the right place at the right time gave a group of...

University Of Colorado Student-built Instrument Set To Launch On Pluto Mission

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— The University of Colorado at Boulder's long heritage with NASA planetary missions will continue Jan. 17 with the launch of a student space dust instrument on the New Horizons Mission to Pluto from Florida's Kennedy Space Center.

As the first student-built instrument ever selected by the space agency to fly on a planetary mission, the CU-Boulder Student Dust Counter, or SDC, will monitor the density of dust grains...

— The University of Colorado at Boulder's long heritage with NASA...

Tenth Planet Has A Moon

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— ASADENA, Calif. -- The newly discovered 10th planet, 2003 UB313, is looking more and more like one of the solar system's major players. It has the heft of a real planet (latest estimates put it at about 20 percent larger than Pluto), a catchy code name (Xena, after the TV warrior princess), and a Guinness Book-ish record of its own (at about 97 astronomical units-or 9 billion miles from the ...

— ASADENA, Calif. -- The newly discovered 10th planet, 2003 UB313...

Largest Asteroid May Be 'Mini Planet' With Water Ice

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BestAstronomy (Sep. 9, 2005) — Observations of 1 Ceres, the largest known asteroid, have revealed that the object may be a "mini planet," and may contain large amounts of pure water ice beneath its surface.

The observations by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope also show that Ceres shares characteristics of the rocky, terrestrial planets like Earth. Ceres' shape is almost round like Earth's, suggesting that the asteroid may have a "differentiated interior," with a...

Scientists Discover Solar System's Tenth Planet -- Bigger Than Pluto

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— A planet larger than Pluto has been discovered in the outlying regions of the solar system.

The planet was discovered using the Samuel Oschin Telescope at Palomar Observatory near San Diego, Calif. The discovery was announced today by planetary scientist Dr. Mike Brown of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., whose research is partly funded by NASA.

The planet is a typical member of the Kuiper...

— A planet larger than Pluto has been discovered in the outlying...