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The Tenth Planet Shrinks Under Hubble's Gaze

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the under-the-microscope dept.

318

starexplorer2001 writes "An object called the 10th planet by some astronomers is not as large as previously thought. New images of 2003 UB313 (aka Xena) were delivered by the Hubble Telescope and showed up as only 1.5 pixels! Now, some are calling to demote Pluto and kill Xena."

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Conversely... (-1, Offtopic)

ScaryMonkey (886119) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111679)

Last night's curry is causing Uranus to expand.

Thanks, I'll be here all week.

Obl Futurama quote. (1, Redundant)

forgotten_my_nick (802929) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111788)

PROFESSOR FARNSWORTH: I'm sorry, Fry, but astronomers renamed Uranus in 2620 to end that stupid joke once and for all.

FRY: Oh. What's it called now?

PROFESSOR FARNSWORTH: Urectum.

Planet? (0, Offtopic)

Misch (158807) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111686)

Is it a planet or a pla-not [christinelavin.com] ?

Blast! (2, Funny)

bl4nk (607569) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111688)

This has to be another sinister plot by Aries! Xena should have killed him when she had the chance!

Re:Blast! (1)

Skreems (598317) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111803)

She did, but he came back as Ares

atomic? (2, Interesting)

caffeinemessiah (918089) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111695)

how exactly do you represent or see half a pixel? i thought pixels were supposed to be atomic...?

Re:atomic? (2, Insightful)

staticdaze (597246) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111716)

This is off the top of my head, but I would think they could determine that "half pixel" based on the shade of the entire pixel relative to the "main" pixel that actually contains most of the body. If it's 75% darker, assume the object extends 25% into that pixel? Am I close?

Re:atomic? (2, Insightful)

binarybum (468664) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111822)

maybe, but this still seems bizarre - why not map the pixels into real space and give a value based on a non-discreet scale (like meters or football fields)?

Re:atomic? (1)

hazem (472289) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111916)

Libraries of Congress? It's one of my favorite units.

Re:atomic? (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111720)

Intensity.

Re:atomic? (5, Informative)

helioquake (841463) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111744)

A pixel is small, but nowhere near subatomic. It's measured only in microns.

When photons are distributed over the CCD surfrace, it has some measureable shape (e.g., Gaussian) which can be fitted as such to characterize the shape. The quoted size of 1.5 pixel is, I think, the FWHM of the fitted Gaussian function that characterize its source.

misunderstanding? (1, Insightful)

interactive_civilian (205158) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111773)

I think the GPP meant atomic as in "smallest reduceable unit", which came from the Greek atomos which means "indivisible".

So, how do you get half a pixel on a screen? I too was under the impression that an individual pixel was either all on or all off...

Re:misunderstanding? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15111813)

there exists a data aquisition and processing technique called drizzling. it is quite sophisticated but in short consists of taking serveral just slightly displaced and rotated images of the interesting object. then you subdivide each pixel on the images into smaller bits and overlay all the images on a new subpixel grid. but how this holds with the nyquist critera that requires two pixel to be exposed to clearly say that a feature on the picture is there or not, i do not know...

Re:misunderstanding? (2, Insightful)

helioquake (841463) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111817)

So, how do you get half a pixel on a screen? I too was under the impression that an individual pixel was either all on or all off...

Do you guys know the concept of "resizing a ditital image"?

Subsampling of a pixel can be done by knowing the intensity values in the neighboring 8 pixels (or greater). In other words, you can derive the intensity value at the pixel boundary by taking the mean value of the intensity values detected in these two pixels.

In this case, the measured size is derived based on mathematical characterization of the apparent point source.

I ought to be able to say this in a simpler term, damn it...

Re:misunderstanding? (1)

Jamu (852752) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111985)

The pixels in the article aren't binary atoms though and probably have at least two bits of precision: explaining the claim of 1.5 pixels. More generally, most monitors have three different elements for red, green and blue. TrueType, for example, uses these as the atoms rather than the whole pixel, to get smoother screen text. Modern video cards, when using 3D graphics, can sample more than one point for the same pixel. For example, 4X Anti-aliasing can use up to four sample points per pixel.

Re:atomic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15111790)

atomic

adj. [from Gk. `atomos', indivisible] 1. Indivisible;
cannot be split up.


He wasn't talking about atoms...

Re:atomic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15111792)

Your first sentence makes no sense. On a camera a pixel represents an *angle*, not a length. If you know where the object is then the pixel can become a length. In this case 1 pixel = 1000 miles. Not microns.

Re:atomic? (1)

helioquake (841463) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111900)

I'm talking about the physical size of a pixel on the ACS/HRC.

Re:atomic? (4, Informative)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111796)


A pixel is small, but nowhere near subatomic. It's measured only in microns


By atomic, the author means it cannot be divided further. This was the original meaning of atom. Atomic is a word used in computer science to indicate an operation that can't be interrupted. It either happens completely, or doesn't happen at all.

INFORMATIVE??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15112010)

The pixels discrete points of measurement. They are atomic in that they are indivisible. This has nothing to do with atoms.

Re:atomic? (1)

Black Copter Control (464012) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111859)

how exactly do you represent or see half a pixel?

Think of it as the inverse of anti-aliasing.

Statistical (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111885)

You can measure "sub-resolution" size by taking repeated measurements and averaging (eg. count the number of pixels ten times and average). This is quite commonly done with a wide variety of sensors to get better resolution than the sensors can provide on a single measurement. Sometime noise is added to the measurements to help improve the resolution.

Re:atomic? (3, Insightful)

gameforge (965493) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111928)

You guys are making this too complicated. NASA's site [nasa.gov] says: "Located 10 billion miles away, but with a diameter that is a little more than half the width of the United States, Xena is only 1.5 picture elements across in Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys' view."

Think projection in a 3D game. A pixel represents, at a projected distance of 10 billion miles, a width x. Xena is 1.5x.

The final image (as you all have pointed out) would require a minimum of two pixels of information to accurately reproduce the projected image from a distance of 10 billion miles. The second pixel would not have the intensity of the first. But from the image on the site, it looks like a lot more than two pixels of information were recorded; I don't see how they could magnify two pixels and get that.

Maybe... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15111698)

Maybe it's all black except for a bright white spot.

Re:Maybe... (2, Funny)

SlowMovingTarget (550823) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111723)

EEEEEeeeeeewwwww... A zit so big Hubble could see it...

Looks like (1)

dawnread (851254) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111711)

"Now, some are calling to demote Pluto and kill Xena."

The War on Terrible Planet Names has begun ;).

Xena (3, Interesting)

Detritus (11846) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111713)

Forget Xena, the planet should be named Marvin.

Re:Xena (2, Funny)

Black Copter Control (464012) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111810)

Forget Xena, the planet should be named Marvin.

No. George. It started a war with an inflated estimate.

Re:Xena (1)

Funkmaster_G (942140) | more than 8 years ago | (#15112088)

At least they didn't call it Urectum.

Re:Xena (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15112100)

Fry: "Hey, as long as you don't make me smell Uranus." *laughs*

Leela: "I don't get it."

Professor: "I'm sorry, Fry, but astronomers renamed Uranus in 2620 to end that stupid joke once and for all."

Fry: "Oh. What's it called now?"

Professor: "Urectum."

Re:Xena (1)

Alioth (221270) | more than 8 years ago | (#15112097)

A better name would be Rupert.

Only 68 miles bigger (0)

RLiegh (247921) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111730)

Xena has only 68 miles on Pluto, but it's mostly made of ICE. One good solar flare up and *poof*, no more Xena.

Re:Only 68 miles bigger (1)

Bushcat (615449) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111774)

*poof*, no more Xena

I'll bear that in mind as the flare passes us en route, with 4900 times the intensity it will have when it reaches Xena. "I bet RLiegh's having a chuckle right now", I'll think to myself.

(4900 assumes Xena is at an average 70 au)

Re:Only 68 miles bigger (4, Funny)

RLiegh (247921) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111806)

As George Carlin said pollution; Earth will be fine. We might be fucked; but the earth will be A-OK.

Re:Only 68 miles bigger (1)

RLiegh (247921) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111815)

,s/said pollution/said about pollution/g

Re:Only 68 miles bigger (2, Interesting)

TrevorB (57780) | more than 8 years ago | (#15112204)

Unless the greenhouse effect is runaway, like Venus, and all the water is evaporated away. Then we're all fucked.

I did some scary back of envelope calculations today about Venus. It's closer to the sun, and receives about 1.9 times the sunlight as Earth. But its atmosphere is so reflective (which is why it's so bright in the sky, the albedo is almost twice that of Earth), that only half the amount of sunlight gets through the CO2 and SO2 clouds without being bounced back into space.

Venus receives less energy from the sun than Earth does.

I try not to think too much about that, it scares the living crap out of me. Something went terribly terribly wrong with Venus. We need to figure out what that was.

It's likely that earth has a corrective measure that will throw the planet back into a severe ice age if CO2 levels rise too high. Our history is dominated by ice ages. Still I like my planet the temperature it is now, not severely hotter or colder.

"...not as large as previously thought." (4, Funny)

core plexus (599119) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111739)

"I swear it's a foot long, it just shrank because of the cold of space!" --

New Face discovered on Mars [suvalleynews.com]

A planet by any other name.... (5, Interesting)

svunt (916464) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111748)

Ah, I still remember fondly the first time I saw a slashdot thread climb to a few hundred posts of argument about 'what makes a planet a planet?'. If ever a term was crying out for a rigid, ostensive definition from astronomers, it's 'planet'. From the ancient greek word for "wanderer", if we don't tighten it up some, the argument will come trotting out every time someone finds a rock doing laps about the sun. Stays within 10 degrees of the ecliptic, say 3,000km across...that works for me.

Re:A planet by any other name.... (1)

inhalentbroom (836865) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111755)

I agree. Personally, I think we should just nuke Xena so that the planet debate doesn't come up.

Re:A planet by any other name.... (1)

tqft (619476) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111762)

Why within 10deg of the ecliptic?

Historical property known "planets"?

If we found an earth sized object but at 90 deg to ecliptic would you change your definition? At a Pluto like distance it could be out there - too dark and small to detect.

Re:A planet by any other name.... (1)

gameforge (965493) | more than 8 years ago | (#15112039)

> If we found an earth sized object but at 90 deg to ecliptic would you change your definition? At a Pluto like distance it could be out there - too dark and small to detect.

I'm pretty sure we'd see it, unless it were all black, or something prevented it from reflecting light.

I do agree though, the definition of a 'planet' should work for all uni-star solar systems, and being that Earth does not exist simultaneously in every solar system, making the definition of 'planet' relative to Earth doesn't make sense.

I personally would classify an object with any orbit (and thus Pluto, Xena, etc.) to be a planet. If we really incist on saying that it should be a circular orbit, that's about as precise as you can get, although I don't like that either... as I said in another reply, even our own familiar "planets" are so different from each other that I think a "planet" should either have a very broad definition (e.g. any gravitationally significant object orbiting a sun for a living) or refer to our 8 planets that have been in the telescopes of astronomers for centuries, I guess for historical purposes/kids sake. In essence, a meteor that closely resembles a planet but has a noticeably elliptical orbit at a funny angle should still be a planet and studied as such; along that same line of reasoning, each of our eight planets should be studied with a very "open mind" (e.g. they're all a hell of a lot different from each other, originated via different processes, etc.).

Re:A planet by any other name.... (1)

tqft (619476) | more than 8 years ago | (#15112193)

"I'm pretty sure we'd see it, unless it were all black"
you are probably right there - drop it back to 2 * pluto avg distance and seeing it would be a dodgy proposition

"If we really incist on saying that it should be a circular orbit,"
http://www.solarviews.com/eng/solarsys.htm [solarviews.com]
Down the bottom of the page - eccentricity = 0 for a circular orbit so even that doesn't work - Pluto and Mercury would well and truly fail at >3 * average ecc of those planets in that table including themselves.

Re:A planet by any other name.... (1)

Godwin O'Hitler (205945) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111907)

You can bet your life that somewhere out there there's a previously undiscovered body measuring 2,999km just waiting for the day your definition gets official acceptance.

Re:A planet by any other name.... (1)

qazsedcft (911254) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111926)

I agree with the other guy. The angle to the ecliptic shouldn't matter. I think we don't know enough to define "planet". What if other stars have different kinds of planets that we don't even know of. Until we learn more about extrasolar planets I think a good working definition could be something like "approximately round shaped body, diameter at least 1000 km, orbiting a star". Yes, that would include Pluto, Xena, and a bunch of others. We can have a very broad definition first and then refine it with terms such as "minor", "terrestrial", "giant", and so forth. Frankly who cares if textbooks have to be changed? Kids in school should learn that there are some minor planets out there even if they don't learn them all.

what scale? (3, Interesting)

alphakappa (687189) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111779)

"New images of 2003 UB313 (aka Xena) were delivered by the Hubble Telescope and showed up as only 1.5 pixels! "

1.5 pixels on what scale? A pixel is not a unit of measurement for size, it just denotes the smallest distinct unit in a picture. Yes, it appears sensational to say that a 'planet' appeared to be 1.5 pixels (100 exclamation marks), but that's just as stupid as saying that my backyard appears to be 5 pixels wide on Google Earth. Gives no information unless you say that the resolution is 1 pixel = X metres.

Re:what scale? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15111847)

that's just as stupid as saying that my backyard appears to be 5 pixels wide on Google Earth. Gives no information unless you say that the resolution is 1 pixel = X metres.

It doesn't tell us your backward's length, but it tells us how close Google Earth is from not being able to resolve your backward, which IS information.

RTFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15111974)

RTFA, it says:

"The round world, officially catalogued as 2003 UB313, is about 1,490 miles wide with an uncertainty of 60 miles"

"Since 2003 UB313 is 10 billion miles away [...], it showed up as just 1.5 pixels in Hubble's view."

Re:what scale? (1)

TrevorB (57780) | more than 8 years ago | (#15112148)

It also doesn't make clear that 2003 UB313 is still larger than Pluto after the new measurement (~1,430 vs ~1,490 miles diameter respectively).

Re:what scale? (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 8 years ago | (#15112201)

The number is just there to give an indication of a possible error margin. At 5 pixels, the size your backyard could be determined well within a 20% error margin. Depending on whether you can differentiate between the surrounding backyards and what the accuracy of measured light is, 5 pixels doesn't say shit about the size of your backyard, but it says a lot about the error margin by which the size of it was calculated using those pixels.

hobble in space (0)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111780)

I guess this is sort of an argument to keep the hubble going. I wonder how dificult it would be to send a robotic mission that not only lifts the orbit but actualy send the hubble into space to orbit the sun outside our own planets gravity. I guess this would let it get closer to objects as well as extend it mission criteria. It probalby could have some sort of comunications relay on the bosters that would relay the hubbles regular comunications on a faster more reliable (for the conditions)system.

I'm wondering exaclty how different the images could be if they weren't effect by earths gravity or if the hubble was actualy closer. Maybe not wiote as far out a pluto but closer too it? Then again it might be cheaper to just build a new telescope and launch it.

Re:hobble in space (1)

helioquake (841463) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111920)

I wonder how dificult it

Your idea would cost more than servicing the Hubble with a shuttle. Actually it might be cheaper to build another one, I'm afraid.

But fear not. The Hubble will be serviced, more than likely, and continue to be operated until a replacement (of sort) becomes available (i.e., JWST, though it ain't nothing like the HST).

Re:hobble in space (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15111930)

No, the best thing would be for us to get out into space and build a big-ass telescope on the dark side of the moon. You can achieve a much bigger telescope this way and have infinitely less light pollution problems and whatnot.

Obviously there are a few technical hurdles here, though.

Size (1)

aepervius (535155) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111782)

It is nice to know that it is only 1/2 pixel or whatever number of pixel, but how about a real size ? in kilometers ?

Re:Size (4, Informative)

helioquake (841463) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111848)

It can be derived with trigonometry:

    (angle)*distance_to_the_object == size_of_the_planet

which are

    (1.5pixel*0.025"/pixel)/(60*60*57.3radian/") * 100AU * 1.5e8 km/AU ~ 2700km.

If you read the article, you'll find that the size is only 1400km, though.
The difference results from the fact that the measured size of 1.5 pixel
includes the size of its point spread function for the HST/ACS/HRC (i.e.,
even a true point source show some finite size in optics...something we
cannot beat).

Re:Size (1)

mabinogi (74033) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111935)

> It can be derived with trigonometry:

But you still need the scale.

> (1.5pixel*0.025"/pixel)

So where'd you get the 0.025 from?
Without that, 1.5 pixels is completely meaningless. a "pixel" could be any size

Re:Size (1)

product byproduct (628318) | more than 8 years ago | (#15112016)

Hubble's highest resolution should be common geek knowledge, like Mount Everest's height or the distance to the moon. Anyway, here's a quote:

"Images from the HRC are smaller in pixel size, 1,000 pixels square, but have a finer resolution, 0.025 arcseconds per pixel. The HRC is preferred for images of planets, or objects appearing smaller on the sky, where higher resolution outweighs larger field of view."

http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/newsdesk/archive/ releases/2005/34/image/m [hubblesite.org]

1.5 pixels!! (0, Redundant)

ithaqua23 (607748) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111787)

Isn't the definition of a pixel, that it can't be one and a half!

Re:1.5 pixels!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15111955)

This is true of a monochrome screen, but Hubble has grayscale vision. The object could have registered as 0,0,255,128,0,0 or 0,0,64,255,64,0,0 or something like that.

Kill Xena... (1)

Ekhymosis (949557) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111791)

...kill Xena

I thought network television did that...

Re:Kill Xena... (3, Funny)

slashdotmsiriv (922939) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111927)

" "...kill Xena"

I thought network television did that..."

You are wrong, she came back as a Cylon ...

Anyone care to... (3, Funny)

mrjb (547783) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111794)

...post a link to the image?

no need! (4, Funny)

Quadraginta (902985) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111917)

Here's a copy of the image itself:
.

Don't forget it's a reversed (negative) image, so Xena itself is dark and the background of space is white.

I think if you look very closely you can see a few faint stars in the background...

Re:no need! (1)

KiloByte (825081) | more than 8 years ago | (#15112043)

Reversed? [angband.pl] It looks fine to me...

Excellent (2, Informative)

Burb (620144) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111802)

As every Dr. Who fanboy knows, the tenth planet is named Mondas. http://www.drwhoguide.com/who_2d.htm/ [drwhoguide.com] . What is slashdot coming to?

Re:Excellent (1)

dodobh (65811) | more than 8 years ago | (#15112056)

As every real; Slashdotter knows, the name is Rupert.

Re:Excellent (1)

Burb (620144) | more than 8 years ago | (#15112102)

I may have known that at some time, but have probably forgotten.

Kill Xenu? (1)

Negatyfus (602326) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111820)

Kill Xenu? You can't say that about my religion! I'm gonna sue you! I'll see you in court!

Re:Kill Xenu? (1)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 8 years ago | (#15112023)

... in England!

Re:Kill Xenu? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 8 years ago | (#15112055)

Actually, if we think of the same religion, you should be happy that someone finally deals with that bastard.

Xena FTW (0, Offtopic)

JavaFTW++ (964323) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111821)

Xena: Warrior Princess. LA LA LA LA LA!!! I wish I knew a girl as cool as her!

Re:Xena FTW (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15111869)

You just wish you knew a girl.

Re:Xena FTW (1)

JavaFTW++ (964323) | more than 8 years ago | (#15112071)

Yeah, I stuck my last one in the closet and she got punctured...duck tape didn't help. Sad.

There's a reason why planet isn't defined... (3, Informative)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111828)

It's because the word planet isn't really a scientific word. There's no hard point where something becomes a planet and where it's not a planet. Words like planet are really just our own convienent language definitions. Arguing about whether something is a planet or not is a little like arguing whether something is a chair or not. It only matters based upon useage.

Re:There's a reason why planet isn't defined... (1)

splodger75 (961977) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111964)

It's a chair if a certain Microsoft CEO can throw it.

Re:There's a reason why planet isn't defined... (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 8 years ago | (#15112115)

Yes, that is precisely why scientific papers go to great lengths to define key terms. Humans, (and it could be argued, animated lifeforms in general), categorise things to make sense of the universe. Humans go a step further than most animals, they attempt to translate those categories into a common language. eg: To answer the question "is a virus alive", you need to define "virus" and "alive". "Do galaxies evolve", is another question fraught with definition problems.

Simarly, to answer the question "is Pluto a planet", you need to define "planet", defining Pluto is as easy as pointing at it. Most astronomers would answer yes because of convention. Few (none) would go to the trouble of scientifically defining "planet". The name of the game is publish or perish, categorising some heavenly body 'X' as either a planet or a big rock is hardly a "scientific contribution", therefore it adds nothing to the "publish" side of the game.

Category problems are ubiquitous, and my guess is, they expand expotentially faster than the rate of new concepts. In fact a large portion of slashdot threads are fueled entirely by the same problems, just look at the number of posts questioning/defining the meaning of 1.5 pixels. Taking advantage of this kind of confusion to manipulate others is what is known as "spin" (eg: Economic modeling trumps climate modeling).

Of course Louis Carroll said it succinctly and with more elequonce than I can muster...

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean--neither more nor less.' 'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things 'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master--that's all.'

Re:There's a reason why planet isn't defined... (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 8 years ago | (#15112212)

Translation of parent:


There's a reason why planet isn't defined... ...is because planet isn't defined.

I WAS IN THE POOL! (0, Offtopic)

sxtxixtxcxh (757736) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111855)

I WAS IN THE POOL... doesn't she know about shrinkage?

Why is this so hard? (3, Interesting)

jpatters (883) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111879)

I don't understand why this is so hard to understand. The only sensible definition for a planet is an object that is spherical due to its own gravity, orbits a star, and is not itself a star. But these bozos keep saying "But Pluto is so different from the other planets, we can't call it a planet!" Well boohoo. So it's freaking different! Earth and Jupiter are somewhat freaking different from each other, last time I checked, but we call both of those objects planets! "But then there will probably be a thousand planets in the solar system!" they say. I say, get over it! This is not a big problem unless you're an astrologer! I honestly don't give a rat's ass about Pluto's legacy as being called a planet, if we are going to continue calling it a planet then we also need to call this other object (and several others) planets as well. The problem is, we keep being told that this needs to be controversial because defining a planet is somehow difficult, what I think is happening here is that there are a group of scientists who have an emotional problem with there being a thousand planets in the solar system and are preventing the IAU from adopting the obvious definition.

Obligatory joke (1)

TrevorB (57780) | more than 8 years ago | (#15112166)

The following joke just came to mind...

Your momma is so big and so cold they launched her into space and couldn't figure out if she was a planet or not!

OK, that was a crappy joke.

I'd have to agree with the "no 1000 planets, please" antagonists. Defining Kuiper belt objects as planets demotes the concept of "planet". We might as well call every object that orbits the sun "space thing" and be done with it.

What constitutes a "planet"? (1, Informative)

gameforge (965493) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111880)

First of all, IANAA (an astronomer).

[rant]
It's truly amazing that we can see things so far away with our little technology; but ultimately, humans have made it so far as the moon... with respect to our sandbox in the universe, that's not very far. Jupiter and Mars are completely different things - they probably were created via entirely different processes. Mars is a dusty rock that gets hot & cold a lot. Jupiter is a massive ball of gas that has thunderstorms with its moons; I read somewhere that one of Jupiter's moons has a tidal terrain. Could you imagine the crust of the Earth rising and falling some-odd hundred meters as the moon went by? One (many?) of Jupiters' moons has this property.

We need a name for balls of mass (whether a few km in diameter or an astronomical unit, e.g. 93 million miles, in diameter) that orbit stars for a living. If that's a planet, fine. Sounds like comets, Pluto, Xena, and everything else that orbits a star is a planet. Otherwise, a "planet" is a name for the eight terrestrial entities that astronomers have known about for centuries... and we still need a name/class system for things that orbit parent stars. Many (most?) argue that comets and the like are not planets because they came to be and exist in a different way than our traditional "planets"... but our own (8 or 9) planets are so very different to begin with, that if you think about it long enough, they're all too radically different to be in the same class. We may like to think we know how Jupiter and Mars and Earth and the Moon were created; that crap happened so long ago, it's safe to say that humans have no way of knowing - none of us were there.

I like the second article, which suggests we demote Pluto and Xena (and similar objects) to "dwarf" planets.

We're only human! For a long time we thought matter and energy were two different things; now, the fact that matter is considered "solid" is coming into question. It goes to show how little we really know to begin with, and arguing the definition of a "planet" is as useful to our curiosities as arguing the difference between a rabbit turd and a cow pie.
[/rant]

So as not to only rant, I thought I would try to be informative as well. :)

If anyone would like to see Xena, here [jumk.de] 's a page with a decent shot. The actual NASA feature about the recent picture is here [nasa.gov] .

The Plan (3, Funny)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111882)

NASA secretly discovers disturbing facts about the nature of the tenth planet, and decides the news is too shocking for the wide audience. A plan is created to announce the news in several manageable bites:

1. tenth planet not as big as previously thougth, it's more like a small planet, but hey it's a still a friggin 10-th planet, right!

2. tenth planet not a planet as previously thougth, it's more like a moon of Pluto.. but it's still a friggin planet, if not THE 10-th planet...

3. new moon not really a moon, turns out it's more like a really big meteor, so big, it's kinda as big as a moon, almost, but not exactly...

4. big meteor kinda smaller than big, more like, medium meteor, still there though! xena, the medium meteor!! Yei!

5. ok maybe it's not that of a medium, more like a small meteor, little warrior meteor thingy.

6. hey what did you know! that little meteor thingy noone really friggin cares about, was a smudge on the Hubble lens system! huh, sh*t happens, but it's not like we confused it to be the 10-th planet in the Solar system, I mean, cut us some slack, come on :)

7. hey watch us drink cola in zero gravity. wobble, wobble, wobble, wobble!! lol!

Stupid name (4, Informative)

Kirth (183) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111890)

Well, what kind of a name should that be anyway? Xena is not a roman god or goddess, not even a small one like Luna, Nike or Pluto.

So if this object should be called a planet, here's the proper list of names to choose from:

Acca Larentia, Alemonia, Anna Perenna, Carmenta, Carna, Consus, Dea Dia, Feronia, Flora, Fons, Furrina, Maia, Nike, Ops, Pales, Pomona, Portunus, Robigus, Silvanus, Veiovis, Vertumnus, Volturnus

everything else is not acceptable.

Re:Stupid name (3, Insightful)

mgblst (80109) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111936)

How about this line from the article
 
  Nicknamed "Xena," 2003 UB313 was discovered last year.
 
So 2003 UB313 was discovered last year, in 2005 - doesn't that strike someone as a little odd.

Re:Stupid name (2, Informative)

renoX (11677) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111953)

Why wouldn't it be acceptable?
Why should planets/asteroids only be named after gods?

IMHO Xena is a name that more people know that all the name you gave, so it's easier to remember thus it's a better name.

Re:Stupid name (1)

miro f (944325) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111970)

one billion dollars says "Nike" is picked

Once a higher resolution picture is taken the 1.5 pixels will resolve itself into a tick...

Re:Stupid name (1)

darklordyoda (899383) | more than 8 years ago | (#15112014)


I dunno, I'm kinda hoping for the "Fons".

Re:Stupid name (2, Funny)

stunt_penguin (906223) | more than 8 years ago | (#15112027)

That said, I'm sure Nike (the sportswear makers) wouldn't mind having the planet named Nike. They can probably use it in an advertising campaign or something. Also, quasi-planet Nike would be around for much longer than sportswear-Nike. Nothing lasts forever.

Re:Stupid name (1)

glwtta (532858) | more than 8 years ago | (#15111989)

Xena is not a roman god or goddess

Well, Xenia is one of the many epithets for Athena (so, Minerva, if you want the Roman corruption). From 'xenos', probably referring to her hospitality related "duties".

Incidentally, how did you pick your "proper list" from the hundreds of Roman deities? (Nike is the Greek form btw, Victoria is the Roman equivalent)

Re:Stupid name (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15112141)

Xena is not the official name, it's just the designation used by its discoverers until the International Astronomical Union decides on a name. Why does it take almost a year to decide on a name? Becouse they haven't decided yet if it's a planet or not. Planets are named after major Roman gods or godesses, while other major KBOs are named after gods associated with the underworld in various mythologies. So until they decide whether 'Xena' is a planet or not they can't name it becouse they don't want to brake the naming scheme.

Re:Stupid name (2, Interesting)

TrevorB (57780) | more than 8 years ago | (#15112173)

IIRC, the discussions at the astronomical society have come to the conclusion that most of the good roman names have been used up. They're talking about moving into other pantheons for names (Hindu I believe was considered).

It better be a big set of names if we're going to start naming all the large Kuiper belt objects we're going to find.

Dumb Question (0, Redundant)

Wellington Grey (942717) | more than 8 years ago | (#15112017)

How do you get half a pixel? Wouldn't that be like trying to get half a bit?

-Grey [wellingtongrey.net]

Re:Dumb Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15112031)

half a bit... you mean "0.5"?

Re:Dumb Question (4, Informative)

Voltageaav (798022) | more than 8 years ago | (#15112045)

All the Pixels around it were black except for one that was white, and one next to it that was grey, 1/2 white, 1/2 black. The pixel averages everything in the space it covers. I don't know if they actually use black or white or not, but that's how it works. Does that simplify things?

NPigga (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15112026)

Wrong end? (3, Funny)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 8 years ago | (#15112048)

The Tenth Planet Shrinks Under Hubble's Gaze

I bet they're looking at it through the wrong end of the telescope. If they turn Hubble around, that thing'll turn out to be HUGE!

orbit planes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15112057)

From the second article:

Diminutive Pluto's orbit, like that of 2003 UB313, is way out of whack with the main plane in which the other eight planets roam.

Somebody tell me, how is this important in any way or form? While I agree that calling 2003 UB313 and Pluto planets may be bad idea, I don't see this as a valid argument.

classification in western thought (2, Interesting)

kwoff (516741) | more than 8 years ago | (#15112121)

I've been reading a book recently (The Geography of Thought) on the differences between how Western and Eastern people think. One of the main theses in the book is that Western thought (since ancient Greek times) is oriented toward objects and their classification, whereas Eastern thought (since ancient Chinese times) focuses more on continuous substances and the relationships between them. Another thesis (or corrolary of the previous one) is that Western thought avoid contradictions, whereas Eastern thought invites them.

So I wonder if this is a case (debating the classification of a "planet") where Western-style thinking misleads us. Although this kind of thinking is great for science, at the same time insisting on logic can be irrational: simply wasting time on an issue that is inherently complex and not either-or.

In the time it takes to..... (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 8 years ago | (#15112190)

Have Dr. McKay explain this to Conan and Xena the sun will have boiled earth to a smoldering cinder.

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