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Kuiper Object Discoveries Formally Announced

Zonk posted about 9 years ago | from the i'd-like-you-to-meet-a-giant-space-rock dept.

Space 126

ewhac writes "The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that the new Trans-Neptunian objects mentioned in the press earlier this year are being formally announced this week at a planetary conference in Cambridge, England. Bearing the extremely temporary names 'Xena,' 'Santa,' and 'Easterbunny,' the new objects are quite interesting in their own right (Santa is cigar-shaped, rotates end-over-end every four hours, and has a 60-mile-diameter moon). However, even more interesting is the intrigue behind the press conferences revealing Xena earlier this year. It seems that, using the astronomers' own observation logs (publicly available over the Web) and some key details inadvertently revealed in earlier announcements, someone was planning on 'discovering' the objects first and claiming credit. This was why the scientists 'pre-announced' the existence of Xena back in July, to establish priority. The conference in Cambridge represents the first formal, scientific disclosure of the objects."

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Food Factory? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13524617)

Maybe one is a Heechee Food Factory! We're saved!

help Hurricane victims (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13524619)

GNAA pledges aid to Katrina victims
Associated Press, September 11 2005

In an early-morning press conference, reclusive GNAA president timecop declared that the Gay Nigger Association of America will contribute to hurricane Katrina disaster relief efforts. He issued a statement describing the efforts being undertaken to rush relief to New Orleans' former residents, many of whom are black, gay, or both. "My heart tears at the sight of so many flooded niggers", timecop said.

The GNAA is contributing a currently-unknown quantity of sperm, intended to prevent starvation and malnutrition. The sperm is to be delivered this Monday to shelters across the nation. "We are having a non-stop wankathon. I believe we can do this, I believe in my niggas. We will not fail to feed NOLA's hungry refugees." Many have reporters present at the conference questioned the nutritional value of the semen being collected, eliciting angry stares and lip-licking from their host. Timecop did not directly answer the questions, saying "Who the hell are you? I don't see you vigorously beating off to save the niggers!"
The next item on the list was free wireless internet spanning the Southern Louisiana region, allowing access to GNAA's Lastmeasure [nimp.org] online service. Lastmeasure is provided free of charge. It is widely touted as "better than FEMA" in the charitable relief field. Lastmeasure surpasses FEMA's disaster aid service by being accessible to any graphical browser on any operating system [slashdot.org] . Lastmeasure will be the only website available, as all other http requests will be redirected. This measure is intended to minimize use of GNAA.net wireless for other than disaster-relief LM. The conference ended with an emotional outburst from GNAA president timecop, crying out, "so many dead, rotting black shits".

Science is great (1, Interesting)

ReformedExCon (897248) | about 9 years ago | (#13524625)

I don't care much for the whole pre-announcing subplot here, but I think that making this kind of discovery is great.

It's better than suspending tadpoles in a ziplock bag for an hour and then spending three days worrying about destroying all the evidence on re-entry.

So the question is what is the composition of these bodies? Are they rich in any materials that we may find useful to harvest in the future? If so, how can we get up there and bring those materials back?

Gravity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13524680)

I'm wondering as a non-scientist but only a graphics hacker (so I'm not going to know the first thing about where to find the info!) - What size object made of something like iron would you need to have floating out there in space for a human to walk on without floating off just due to the normal exertions of walking, sneezing, running etc.

Santa doesn't sound very big, but I guess keeping an object 60miles across orbiting it must mean it's got a decent gravity

Re:Science is great (2, Insightful)

MoralHazard (447833) | about 9 years ago | (#13524699)

Are they rich in any materials that we may find useful to harvest in the future? If so, how can we get up there and bring those materials back?

These objects are in the Kuiper Belt... They are BEYOND THE ORBIT OF NEPTUNE.

I submit to you that there are no materials valuable enough to justify the energy required to move that much mass to the inner solar system, in any reasonable amount of time. For Christ's sake, we're barely at the point where we can get to Mars and back, let along move any significant amount of mass around.

Re:Science is great (1, Insightful)

smashin234 (555465) | about 9 years ago | (#13524809)

"I submit to you that there are no materials valuable enough to justify the energy required to move that much mass to the inner solar system, in any reasonable amount of time."

I believe you are making a point that is true today, but 10, 15,100 years from now, who knows? With better technology, you just can't tell.

Mining is all about return vs. investment, and with as much as some things increase in price you can not really predict when it will become profitable to mine something even that far out.

Its especially premature to knock the idea when we are unsure what the composition of these objects is. We still discover valuable resources here on Earth that we had no clue about....

Re:Science is great (1)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | about 9 years ago | (#13525115)

Well, unless we find a vastly more efficent and cheap way to get objects into Earth orbit and then beyond, then no. It's simply a lot cheaper to mine things on Earth. Maybe if/when we start to run out of certain materials, it might make sense. But even then we would go to the asteroids, not comets. Asteroids are both closer *and* richer in metals. Comets are mostly ices, after all.

So I'd saying having any expectations of mining these objects is sort of a stretch right now.

Re:Science is great (1)

1u3hr (530656) | about 9 years ago | (#13525372)

Comets are mostly ices, after all.

Which would be extremely useful to breathe, drink, or make fuel in orbital factories/colonies, the moon or even Mars, and much cheaper to bring in, if much slower, than hauling up from Earth.

Re:Science is great (1)

LordSnooty (853791) | about 9 years ago | (#13525742)

Which would be extremely useful to breathe, drink, or make fuel in orbital factories/colonies, the moon or even Mars, and much cheaper to bring in, if much slower, than hauling up from Earth.

Are you advocating running round space and stealing stuff?

Re:Science is great (1)

MoralHazard (447833) | about 9 years ago | (#13525178)

Yeah, and in 10, 15, 100 more years, monkeys might fly out of my butt. No, really--they might.

The argument that "this may become economical in the future, given better technology" is a nonsense argument because it's a truism, but it's a useless truism. We don't know what the future will hold, so any statement with "may" in it is perfectly valid, logically. But at the same time, making the statement is totally pointless because it merely states the obvious: that the future is unknowable.

If you have any arguments that tell us WHY or HOW this kind of mass transit may become economical in a reasonable time frame (less than 100 years, let's say), please enlighten us. Seriously, be a futurist and make an interesting point. I'll entertain it. Otherwise, you're just talking bullshit.

Re:Science is great (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 9 years ago | (#13525513)

Okay, I'll give it a shot.

Getting into orbit is relatively hard. Once you are there, there are earth-orbiting asteroids. Capture one and build a solar sail. Your solar sail vessel can then get to the edge of the solar system. The next step is rather trickier. Use the solar sail to apply orbital drag on the target object and drop it back towards the sun.

Of course, this same technique could be used on objects closer to us, so there's not much incentive to go that far.

Re:Science is great (2, Insightful)

Herschel Cohen (568) | about 9 years ago | (#13525774)

RE: "that is true today, but 10, 15,100 years from now ..."

When a significant majority in one of the advanced space faring states believes the earth is no older than 7,000 years. where do you expect the financing of the basic science necessary to even contemplate the tasks you outline? Scientific reasoning and knowledge is being devalued continuously for more faith based "logic". Moreover, for the immediate future those following the latter, easier path will live the more comfortable life.

So give me one observable trend that might support your overly optimistic view? The Chinese and their will to awe the world with feats in space and the military? Unlikely, in an oppressive society where the elite holds power tenuously most of their efforts are very short term (more like five year plans). Their accomplishments may be more mass killings or their fading away, at best.

RE: "all about return vs. investment ..."

Would it not be wiser (and in some areas the trend) to do more with less? The throw away societies we have will burn out their energy supplies long before they are able to go elsewhere and do it again only bigger (and better?).

RE: "Its especially premature to knock the idea ..." Sorry, not when so little real thought or knowledge lies behind the blabber. Look at one of the responses just below your message. That person at least knows what s/he is talking about.

Re:Science is great (-1, Offtopic)

Hungus (585181) | about 9 years ago | (#13525834)

When a significant majority in one of the advanced space faring states believes the earth is no older than 7,000 years. where do you expect the financing of the basic science necessary to even contemplate the tasks you outline? Scientific reasoning and knowledge is being devalued continuously for more faith based "logic". Moreover, for the immediate future those following the latter, easier path will live the more comfortable life.

What does young earth creationism (YEC) have to do with funding for space exploration and exploitation? I know plenty of YECs myself included that understand the stewardship issue of creation. We look at resources as something to be shepherded meaning be used and protected not abused or ignored. This means off the planet as well as on it.
Your (in general not the parent particular) tiring arguments of creationists not applying logic shows your misunderstanding of the empiricism vs. historicism of facts.

Re:Scien(ce | tology) is great (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13524731)

Hmm, Xena sounds very much like ... Xenu.

I, for one, welcome our new Scientology overlords.

Re:Scien(ce | tology) is great (1)

drgonzo59 (747139) | about 9 years ago | (#13524792)

Don't mess with Xenu [xenu.net] , the mighty overlord copyrighted his name and you will get sued.

Re:Science is great @ confusion (1)

Phil O. Sophy (913798) | about 9 years ago | (#13524842)

FTA: "In the case of the new planet, however, we know that even if it is extremely reflective (like fresh snow, for example) it still cannot be as bright as it is unless it is bigger than Pluto. Thus while we don't know for certain the precise size, we know for certain that it is bigger than Pluto."

How? I don't understand this logic here. What am I missing?

If one person holds a dirty 20 (cm) mirror in pitch darkness about a 100 meters away from me, another person holds a shiny 10 (cm) mirror about 200 meters away from me, and I shine a _powerful_ flashlight at them, I see the smaller mirror is brighter, yet it's NOT bigger, and both appear the same size relative to me...

What I miss?

Re:Science is great @ confusion (1)

imsabbel (611519) | about 9 years ago | (#13524884)

Try putting them 1 and 2 km away, and you will see what the whole thing is about: they will only be points of light, so brightness and distance (and for a planet mass gained by observing multibody interactions) will be the only ways to determine the size.

Re:Science is great @ confusion (3, Informative)

marimbaman (194066) | about 9 years ago | (#13524894)

It's not that the new planet is brighter than Pluto, it's that it's brighter than a snowball at the same size as Pluto and the same distance as the new planet.

Re:Science is great @ confusion (1)

Phil O. Sophy (913798) | about 9 years ago | (#13525021)

Ok. Well, then you are saying that the planet is a clean 10 (cm) mirror and pluto is a dirty 10 (cm) mirror. Right? You still cannot infer that a 10 (cm) mirror is bigger than a 10 (cm) mirror - since at that _vast_ relative distance they still appear to be the same size to us, only one's brighter than the other.

Reflectivity !-> Size

in other words, convince me a white dwarf star (the size of earth) 50 million light years away is bigger than a Gas Giant planet some 20 million light years away. Granted, I'm comparing a star to a planet here, but I'm using it to illustrate (my "apparent" lack of understanding) of associating reflectivity with size. It sounds like a leap of faith to me...

Re:Science is great @ confusion (4, Informative)

pyrrhonist (701154) | about 9 years ago | (#13525171)

Look, it's really not that difficult.

Given:

  • Bigger objects reflect more light than smaller objects made of the same substance.
  • Objects appear dimmer the further away from the viewer they are.
  • The reflectivity of Pluto is known (reflects 60% of sunlight).
  • The size of Pluto is known.
  • No substance known reflects 100% of the light that hits it.
  • The orbit of the new object is known.

From this we can calculate the brightness of a perfect mirror the size of Pluto if it were in the new object's orbit.

From observations we know that the object is almost as bright as a Pluto-sized mirror would be at this distance.

Thus, the smallest the object can be is 97% the size of Pluto. Since the object cannot be a perfect mirror, it is bigger than Pluto.

Likewise, the reflectivity of other substances can be tried. If the object is made of snow (90% reflectivity) it will be 2% larger Pluto, and if the object has the same composition as Pluto it will be 25% larger than Pluto.

Re:Science is great @ confusion (1)

Phil O. Sophy (913798) | about 9 years ago | (#13525429)

> Thus, the smallest the object can be is 97% the size of Pluto. Since the object cannot be a perfect mirror, it is bigger than Pluto.

97%? How did you reach that calculation?

> Likewise, the reflectivity of other substances can be tried. If the object is made of snow (90% reflectivity) it will be 2% larger Pluto, and if the object has the same composition as Pluto it will be 25% larger than Pluto.

Huh? Where'd you get those numbers? Actual calculations might help clarify your illustration. I'll try again by another (more practical) real life example...

Place a marble which is polished clear white, 1 inch in diameter, and 2 feet behind a brown marble 1.1 inches in diameter, and just stand 30 ft across a dark room and shine a light at it. Tell me which one reflects more light back. Brown marble 60%, polished white 90%. You already know the brown marble is bigger by .1 inch, yet you claim since the polished white marble is brighter it is bigger? You don't need any telescopes to perform this experiment. This _really_ isn't rocket science here. You can do it in your own house. Furthermore, if I move that polished white marble up next to the brown one, it gets brighter, right? So by your definition, that polished marble will GROW bigger in diameter. What I'm trying to convey to you is that there is NOT a 1:1 relation between reflectivity and size. I can move that polished clear white marble up to my feet as I shine the light on it. Has it gotten any bigger in diameter? And it's super bright now...

Unfortunately, and I guess you don't see it, you are making mathematical CONCLUSIONS based on mathematical INFERENCES.

I don't know how it can get any simpler than that. Maybe if you could provide a link to how these guys actually measure these distances and sizes WITHOUT actually being able to take a tape measure to them (or send a probe), I wouldn't be so inclined to believe it flys in the face of common sense (and practical real life examples), much less making a mathematically logical equivalence between reflectivity and size, when it's only an inference (especially when dealing in relative terms at vast spanses you cannot accurately measure)...

Re:Science is great @ confusion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13525724)

I can move that polished clear white marble up to my feet as I shine the light on it. Has it gotten any bigger in diameter? And it's super bright now...

...but its intensity has not changed.

If you can wrap your head around that (from your posting, I doubt it), the parent's reasoning is fairly obvious.

Re:Science is great @ confusion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13525998)

The numbers come from the link. Part way down there is a table of how large the object would be at differnt amounts of reflection.

Re:Science is great @ confusion (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13526044)

Diameter = 1329/sqrt(p) * 10^(-0.2*H),

where p = albedo and H = absolute magnitude (-1.2 in the case of 2003 UB313)

Albedo (reflectivity) can be between 0 (no light is reflected) and 1 (all light is reflected). Pluto's albedo is 0.6.

So, if 2003 UB313 has the same reflectivity as Pluto, it would be about 3000 diameter. If it is somewhat brighter (albedo = 0.8) its diameter would still be 2600 km. If p = 1.0 it would be about the size of Pluto. In the unlikely case that it is very dark, it would be far larger than Pluto.

Re:Science is great @ confusion (1)

vrmlguy (120854) | about 9 years ago | (#13526058)

OK, lets review the facts.
Place a marble which is polished clear white, 1 inch in diameter, and 2 feet behind a brown marble 1.1 inches in diameter, and just stand 30 ft across a dark room and shine a light at it. Tell me which one reflects more light back.
The amount of light reflected is proportional to the product of the diameter of the marble and its reflectivity, and inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the light source. The amount of light received by the observer is proportional to the amount of light reflected and inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the observer.

Looking across the room, we note how much light we observe and multiply that by the square of the distance between us and the marbles. That gives us the amount of light being reflected. Then we multiply that number by the square of the distance between the marbles and the light source. That gives us the product of the diameter of the marble and its reflectivity. Reflectivity is always between 0 and 1, giving us a minimum diameter for the marble.

This leaves the question of how we can figure out those distances. For the marbles, it's easy. For objects in the solar system, you have to observe them for a while and calculate their orbits. Once Kepler figured out his laws of planetary motion (around 1600), it took very little time for him to figure out the relative locations of every object in the solar system; the only thing that he lacked was a scale. He didn't know, for example, if the moon was small and nearby or large and distant, and so everything was expressed in relation to Earth's distance from the Sun. However, if you can make three observations of an object orbiting a known object (like the Sun) then you can calculate its orbit and thus its distance (in A.U.) at any given time. Then in 1672, Cassini used a technique called parallax to measure the distance to Mars and all of the other numbers fell into place, without the need for space probes or really big tape measures.

See http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/en/kids/phonedrmarc/200 2_november.shtml [nasa.gov] for more details.

Re:Science is great @ confusion (4, Informative)

imsabbel (611519) | about 9 years ago | (#13525237)

Dont be dense.

This planet is billions of km away, and only a few 1000km in diameter.

Its size when viewed from the earth is MUCH lower than the seeing from the athmosphere. In fact its so small that even the spitzer space telescope couldnt resolve it as anything more than a point.

So you have a pointsource.

brightness of the point= (light from planet)/(distance from earth)^2

light from planet=light recieved from sun*albedo

light recieved from sun= constant*(area of planet disc)/(distance from sun)^2

-> brightness oft the point= albedo*solar constant*(radius of planet)^2*pi/(distance from sun*distance from earth)^2

You know the solar constant, you know the distances, and you know that the albedo cannot bigger than 1 (perfect lambertian reflection).

If you just meassure the light recieved from the point, you have only albedo and radius left, which allows a minimum size estimate)

Re:Science is great @ confusion (1)

Phil O. Sophy (913798) | about 9 years ago | (#13525463)

> If you just meassure the light recieved from the point, you have only albedo and radius left, which allows a minimum size estimate.

estimate? exactly.

In order to calculate the albedo of a planet, you NEED to know the surface area of that sphere. Do you? And do you know the radius?

Furthermore, in order to calculate the albedo, you must know something about it's atmosphere and temperature. Do we know that?

Mathematical conlusions based on mathematical inferences do not equate to logical equivalences.
:. reflectivity != size

It doesn't get any simpler than that. You sound like a broken google record. How about you actually fill in all the blanks next time, and don't presume copy/pasting google snipets supercedes accredited study. Me thinks you presume too much. How so "enlightened" we are...

Re:Science is great @ confusion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13526062)

You are a fucking juvenile troll. You're seriously arguing with an academic study simply because you don't understand the concepts of albedo and intensity? Get a fucking life, and keep your cheetos stained hands off your dick.

Re:Science is great @ confusion (2, Informative)

scheme (19778) | about 9 years ago | (#13524906)

If one person holds a dirty 20 (cm) mirror in pitch darkness about a 100 meters away from me, another person holds a shiny 10 (cm) mirror about 200 meters away from me, and I shine a _powerful_ flashlight at them, I see the smaller mirror is brighter, yet it's NOT bigger, and both appear the same size relative to me.

At the distances the planets are from us, both objects look like specks. They will probably be larger on something like Gemini but there won't be a difference in sizes due to the distance.

In addition, we already know how far away the objects are due to measurements of it's position. E.g. once you get a few observations you can plug that information into Kepler's equations and get an orbit from it. Once we know that the object is further away from pluto and still brighter, we can figure out that the object has to be either larger than pluto or a perfect mirror. One of the pages gives various size estimates based on reflectivity.

Re:Science is great @ confusion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13524917)

perhaps to simplify things...

Knowing how far away the object and pluto are...

The object is brighter than something the size of pluto COULD be if it was completely reflective... meaning it must be larger.

Re:Science is great @ confusion (1)

Phil O. Sophy (913798) | about 9 years ago | (#13525233)

> In addition, we already know how far away the objects are due to measurements of it's position...

Indeed. That's a given (I suppose). I think you even mentioned "estimates" (by accident or not). What I meant to convey by my mirror analogy is a direct translation of what the article is stating. It makes the following logical equivalence (in mathematically discrete terms):

Reflectivity [is logically equivalent to] Size

...and I disagree (or fail to understand) that statement in the article.

I am saying:

Reflectivity [infers] Size

...quite possibly, yes. I don't dispute that.

The article could have suggested it as so. However, it concluded since it is brighter than it should be, it must be bigger than pluto. I am not nit-picking at the article here. I am just trying to understand the factual scientific means by which we draw such conclusions. How do we accurately measure the size of a planet without actually measuring it, especially when so far away? Other than inferring it's size, based on reflectivity, in association with those near it?

Re:Science is great (1)

craXORjack (726120) | about 9 years ago | (#13524844)

So the question is what is the composition of these bodies? Are they rich in any materials that we may find useful to harvest in the future? If so, how can we get up there and bring those materials back?

Better question is how do we go out there and utilize those materials in-situ? I remember an idea where a shaft would be drilled in an asteroid then a big mirror would be used to melt the asteroid as it spins so it becomes a molten blob filled with gas which expands like a balloon. Once it cools it would be a big football shaped rock ready to build a city in. But Kuiper belt objects are the same as comets rather than asteroids and there's a lot less sunlight out there so this might not work. But wouldn't it be great to be inside Xena?

Why the subplot matters (1)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | about 9 years ago | (#13524911)

No, I am not even an astronomer. But, stealing research results happens. It may happen unwittingly over a cup of coffee or it may be someone actively snooping. Anyhow, results published by the 'wrong team' may lead to less or even no funding. Several years of funding may dissappear in a puff and no editor would ever re-publish your 'scientific news'.

Re:Science is great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13525202)

I guess I better pre-announce too. I've just discovered the Sansa-Belt and the first Sansa-Belt Object, which I shall call La-Z-Boy . And it looks like the Sansa-Belt's continuing to grow in circumference.

Santa *does* sound rather intriguing. (4, Interesting)

kyle90 (827345) | about 9 years ago | (#13524630)

How, exactly, would an object that's larger than Pluto, form in the shape of a cigar? It doesn't even make sense...

Re:Santa *does* sound rather intriguing. (5, Funny)

vespazzari (141683) | about 9 years ago | (#13524640)

well, its only that shape when its near venus ;)

Re:Santa *does* sound rather intriguing. (1)

truckaxle (883149) | about 9 years ago | (#13524718)

Good joke. However your sig needs some attention.

"Alchohol, cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems" -Homer Simpson

hmmm so it is the cause or solution to poor spelling?

The reminds me of a famous quote of a drunken friend of mine. "Alcohol may not solves life's problems but it does put them on hold"

Re:Santa *does* sound rather intriguing. (1)

Skybyte (685829) | about 9 years ago | (#13524730)

His sig is a joke, didn't the fact that it's attributed to Homer Simpson make it obvious?

Re:Santa *does* sound rather intriguing. (1)

truckaxle (883149) | about 9 years ago | (#13524735)

Homer Simpson can write?

Re:Santa *does* sound rather intriguing. (1)

adtifyj (868717) | about 9 years ago | (#13524747)

Next thing you know, those wacky astronomers will be naming a plutino Homer.

Re:Santa *does* sound rather intriguing. (1)

wildsurf (535389) | about 9 years ago | (#13524941)

Next thing you know, those wacky astronomers will be naming a plutino Homer.

Appropriate, considering they're at least 400 feet from home plate.

(On the other hand, due to their eccentric orbits, one could construe that they're in foul territory.)

Re:Santa *does* sound rather intriguing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13525059)

Alcohol is not spelled correctly in the sig. That is what the GP is talking about.

Re:Santa *does* sound rather intriguing. (4, Funny)

Wilson_6500 (896824) | about 9 years ago | (#13524644)

It needs the streamlined shape to make it all the way out there and back in just 354 (Earth) days, not to mention all the hard work it does on the 24th itself.

It probably evolved into its current shape through some sort of intelligent gravity process.

Re:Santa *does* sound rather intriguing. (1)

Louisville_Clark (890513) | about 9 years ago | (#13524671)

maybe it wasn't formed, maybe it was created.

Re:Santa *does* sound rather intriguing. (3, Funny)

SD_92104 (714225) | about 9 years ago | (#13524797)

maybe it wasn't formed, maybe it was created.
Don't we re-write all the text books only after the first version has been finalized?

Re:Santa *does* sound rather intriguing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13524675)

I heard that Uranus was a little bit gassy that day.

*poot*

One Possible Short Answer: Angular Momentum (3, Informative)

BlackGriffen (521856) | about 9 years ago | (#13524825)

I don't have access to the necessary data and my training in this area is thin, but one possibility that springs to mind is that the object has too much angular momentum. I'm sure every slashdotter knows that the Earth is slightly flattened by its rotation. As you add more angular momentum you normally expect the object to just flatten more and more as it spins faster and faster. It turns out that after a certain point the body will be more stable as a tumbling elongated shape than a fast spinning disc. Continue to increase the angular momentum and the body will ultimately separate in to two.

Now, this won't result in a perfect cigar shape - especially the high length to width ratio and straight sides - so another theory may be necessary, depending on the data. This is what sprang in to my mind when they mentioned it, though.

Re:One Possible Short Answer: Angular Momentum (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13524935)

You mean the earth's flat... cool :)

Probably it's not really like a Cigar or only partially. I expect it is some kind of flattened 3d oval (rugby ball shape).

Re:Santa *does* sound rather intriguing. (1)

sirdude (578412) | about 9 years ago | (#13525231)

It would have been a little more appropriate to christen it "Rama [sfreviews.net] "..

Cigar Shaped? (1)

cosmotron (900510) | about 9 years ago | (#13524637)

A cigar shpaed planetoid, that's awesome!

Re:Cigar Shaped? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13524657)

clinton and monica lewinski had a universal effect

Re:Cigar Shaped? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13524670)

Somebody call Monica!

Re:Cigar Shaped? (3, Funny)

flyingsquid (813711) | about 9 years ago | (#13524840)

A cigar shaped planetoid, that's awesome!

I would so love it if someone would name this one "Freud".

Re:Cigar Shaped? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13524912)

I would so love it if someone would name this one "Freud".

And the thing is, it really does circle Uranus.

Re:Cigar Shaped? (1)

ocelotbob (173602) | about 9 years ago | (#13524966)

Wait...cigar, moon/hanger on. I think we should name this orbital pair Clinton and Monica.

Re:Cigar Shaped? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13525174)

I would so love it if someone would name this one "Freud".

Hey, sometimes a Kuiper Belt Object is just a Kuiper Belt Object.

But a good Kuiper Belt Object is a Pluto.

Mod this down (-1)

lheal (86013) | about 9 years ago | (#13524652)

That story made my eyes glaze over faster than technical analysis of the stock market. I'm just not an astronomy nerd, I guess.

So there are rocks in space. And they follow the rules of Newtonian mechanics, rotating around one another.

G'night.

Re:Mod this down (3, Insightful)

deglr6328 (150198) | about 9 years ago | (#13524693)

Thing is, Newtonian mechanics aren't the ONLY rules they follow. They also follow the rules of chemistry, solid state physics and thermodynamics. And it is these things (and others) which appear to have the potential to lead to some very [caltech.edu] very [space.com] weird things indeed. That's why people think these things are exciting.

Cigar shaped, eh? (1)

Lisandro (799651) | about 9 years ago | (#13524653)

Man, Arthur C. Clarke was ahead of his time...

Re:Cigar shaped, eh? (1)

Adelbert (873575) | about 9 years ago | (#13525444)

That's funny, when I read there was a "Trans-Neptunian Santa", the first thing I thought was "Man, Futurama was ahead of its time..."

Bill & Monica... (1, Funny)

creimer (824291) | about 9 years ago | (#13524674)

A cigar-shaped object with a moon. Too bad it didn't have another moon and following a doughnut-shaped object. :P

Re:Bill & Monica... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13524682)

Sometimes a cigar-shaped object is just a cigar-shaped object.

Re:Bill & Monica... (1)

Megamote (688718) | about 9 years ago | (#13525644)

"A cigar-shaped object with a moon"

That's no moon......

Wait a minute...! (3, Funny)

Serko92 (839988) | about 9 years ago | (#13524676)

So Santa has a sigar and travels with a companion. I always knew those "Santa" guys from the mall were on to something!

Controversy (4, Interesting)

Jazzer_Techie (800432) | about 9 years ago | (#13524679)

As the article points out, this brings the question Pluto's "planet" status to the fore. It never really fit in with the other 8 planets to begin with (compostion, relation to the ecliptic, etc.), but now that both a larger Kuiper Belt Obeject and one with a moon have been discovered, the pure scientist in me hopes that it would be possible to push everyone back towards the idea that there are only 8 planets in our solar system. Read the article. It's worth it just to see the term "plutinos" suggested as a common name for KBOs.

Re:Controversy (1)

idlake (850372) | about 9 years ago | (#13524907)

As the article points out, this brings the question Pluto's "planet" status to the fore.

Not particularly; we still don't have any more data to decide Pluto's status.

The best definition of "planet" I have seen is a body that orbits a star and is large enough to have assumed and retained a nearly spherical shape under its own gravity. According to that, Pluto is probably a planet, but we won't know until we get closer.

Re:Controversy (1)

m50d (797211) | about 9 years ago | (#13525230)

The conventional boundary is having enough mass to maintain a (near-) spherical shape, which Pluto certainly does. I say it's a planet, and so are any of these large enough to be spheres. Of course then we have to admit Ceres and Vesta, but that should have been done a long time ago, IMO.

Cigar Shaped? (0, Offtopic)

truckaxle (883149) | about 9 years ago | (#13524694)

Santa is cigar-shaped

They missed a naming opportunity. This new Trans-Neptunian object should have been named "Monica"

Ack! (3, Informative)

Saberwind (50430) | about 9 years ago | (#13524698)

(Santa is cigar-shaped, rotates end-over-end every four hours, and has a 60-mile-diameter moon)

Ack! It's the cheesy alien probe from Star Trek IV!

One thing you can say for sure... (4, Funny)

graveyhead (210996) | about 9 years ago | (#13524710)

One thing you can say for sure now about Xena, Santa, and the Easterbunny is:

they definitely exist. :)

Nope! 'twas the 11th planet discovered... (0)

Phil O. Sophy (913798) | about 9 years ago | (#13524712)

To be historically acurate here: The 10th planet was formerly what we now call the "Asteroid Belt". All ancient civilizations from Egypt to South America to China along the Equator, constructed pyramids detailing that original astrolonomical layout...

Re:Nope! 'twas the 11th planet discovered... (3, Interesting)

saskboy (600063) | about 9 years ago | (#13524740)

I remember just a year or two ago, there was a planet discovered in the Kuiper Belt, given a name starting with a 'Q' if I recall correctly. Then the media started hyping a 10th planet just this year with a new KBO, forgetting the previous discovery.

The problem is that so many of these new KBOs could be larger than Pluto once we find them, even though they might not fit other criteria we'd been using for planetary designation. It actually makes more sense to downgrade Pluto to a simple KBO, and create a more rigid definition of a major planet.

Re:Nope! 'twas the 11th planet discovered... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13524827)

You're thinking of Quaoar.

Also, don't forget Sedna!

(and I won't mention Earth has more than one moon while we're talking astronomy trivia. Who's heard of Cruithne?)

Re:Nope! 'twas the 11th planet discovered... (1)

peteremcc (913806) | about 9 years ago | (#13525009)

Cruithne isn't a moon of earth... it doesn't go around earth.

Re:Nope! 'twas the 11th planet discovered... (1)

huge (52607) | about 9 years ago | (#13525660)

Quaoar was discovered in 2002, it's diameter is over 1200km.

In 2003 scientists discovered Sedna, which has diameter between 1100 - 1800 km.

For You Marijuana Smokers Out There.. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13524720)

Thats Blunt Shaped Planet!!!

I hate zonk (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13524738)

I hope he and his family gets brutally murdered.

sigh. that's SCIENCE reporting on /. (1)

efuseekay (138418) | about 9 years ago | (#13524746)


When, to the self-professed geeks of /., the "Science" is not as interesting as the "politics and intrigue" behind the discovery, you just wanna cry.

Xena? (1)

Vorondil28 (864578) | about 9 years ago | (#13524774)

How the hell did Xena get put in the same group as Santa and the Easterbunny?!?

Re:Xena? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13525007)

Xena will kick your wimpy fucking ass you prick. I'm serious. Don't fucking be talking shit about Xena here, she is a FUCKING GODDESS you creep. Xena will annihilate your scummy slimeball ass. Go fuck off, jerk.

Xena? (4, Funny)

zephc (225327) | about 9 years ago | (#13524785)

"I thought Xena couldn't fly"
"I told you, I'm not Xena. I'm Lucy Lawless."

Re:Xena? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13525517)

THOH XI(thoh xi)

Re:Xena? (1)

AndroidCat (229562) | about 9 years ago | (#13525594)

What a shame that this Xena is a distant frigid body.

This is bullshit... (1)

kurbchekt (890891) | about 9 years ago | (#13524858)

When will the scientific community agree on what constitutes a planet and what could pose an extintion-level-big-hunk-o-stuff? Just any mass-carrying chunk of detritus can pass as a planet nowadays...

so whaddya get with names like that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13524866)

'Santa,' 'Easterbunny,' and 'Xena,' (SEX) will be formally announced this week at a planetary conference in Cambridge, England.

Their own fault (1)

imsabbel (611519) | about 9 years ago | (#13524872)

I watched the discussions about the "hacking incident" on the minor planets mailinglist...

They discovered the first object, calculated the trajectory and didnt publish it for nearly a year.
If they dont want to get their discovery "stolen", they shouldnt monopolize observation time by not publishing.

And also, there is NO proof that those proposed methods were used. The re-discovery by the other team was absolutely legit, and they just wet their pants because they feared they would lose the fame for all those stuff they had been hording for ages.

Temporary names? Yeah right. (2, Insightful)

dtfinch (661405) | about 9 years ago | (#13524888)

In 100 years, they'll still be known as Xena, Santa, and the Easter Bunny.

Re:Temporary names? Yeah right. (No. Really.) (1)

beetlenaut (913805) | about 9 years ago | (#13524949)

No. Really. They aren't even real names. They are just the code names the discoverers have been using. (2003UB313 doesn't really trip off the tongue.) For Sedna, they used the code name "Flying Dutchman", and nobody remembers that.

Fuck you (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13524938)

You stupid, stupid cumt. Fuck me is the ass. Lick my smelly dick, you dick licking homo.

Garden of Ramma found! (1)

Tei (520358) | about 9 years ago | (#13525078)

This remind me a sci-fook about a alien space ship with a giganteous garden inside.

Legal ramifications of using Xena (1)

OsirisX11 (598587) | about 9 years ago | (#13525111)

Since Xena: Warrior Princess is a trademark of Universal TV Distribution Holdings LLC and a copyright of Universal Television Enterprises LLLP, could they potentially sue for usage of a refernce to Xena? I realize this is not going to happen, just curious as to the legal possibilities.

Re:Legal ramifications of using Xena (1)

1u3hr (530656) | about 9 years ago | (#13525424)

would they potentially sue for usage of a refernce to Xena

If it was another warrior princess, and not a planet(oid), maybe.

Re:Legal ramifications of using Xena (1)

imthesponge (621107) | about 9 years ago | (#13526072)

Simple: Universal TV Distribution Holdings LLC will own the planet.

They got the name wrong. (1)

Secret Agent X-9 (912708) | about 9 years ago | (#13525136)

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy dictates that the tenth planet will be called Rupert, and I won't refer to it by any other name. Xena can go to hell.

Oooh! My Horoscope! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13525152)

I was born under a Xena retrograde with The Easter Bunny in my Seventh House!

AWESOME!

What about Rupert? (1)

Alioth (221270) | about 9 years ago | (#13525212)

In the honour of Douglas Adams, at least one of these objects should have been called Rupert.

Object naming because we're object-namers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13525609)

I say we name one Xenu.

This armed and fully operational search engine (1)

AndroidCat (229562) | about 9 years ago | (#13525636)

"I insisted it was impossible. I was wrong. I myself went to Google late on the night after the Spanish announcement, typed K40506A into Google, and let out a gasp."
They're looking for and finding faint objects on the end of the solar system, and a little web crawling and db indexing was a shock to him. Hmm.

Modern Legends (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 years ago | (#13525735)

Considering the fact that they've been "temporarily" named Santa, Xenia and Easterbunny, can Toothfairy, Superman and HomerSimpson be far behind?
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