Frozen world spotted on fringes of solar system
LOS ANGELES — Peering into the far reaches of the solar system, astronomers have spied a pink, frozen world, 7½ billion miles from the sun.
It's the second such object to be discovered in a region of space beyond Pluto long considered a celestial wasteland. Until now, the lone known resident in this part of the solar system was an oddball dwarf planet spotted in 2003 named Sedna after the mythological Inuit goddess who created the sea creatures of the Arctic.
The latest discovery shows “Sedna is not a freak. We can have confidence that there is a new population to explore,” Yale University senior research scientist David Rabinowitz said in an email. He was one of Sedna's discoverers, but had no role in the new find detailed in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.
For years, astronomers hunted in vain for other Sednas in the little-studied fringes of the solar system.
The new object, 2012 VP113, was tracked using a camera on a ground telescope in Chile by Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington and Chad Trujillo of the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii. Trujillo was part of the team that found Sedna.
Like Sedna, VP is a dwarf planet. It's jokingly nicknamed “Biden” after Vice President Joe Biden because of the object's initials. It measures about 280 miles across, or half the diameter of Sedna. It's bone-chilling cold, with a temperature of about minus 430 degrees Fahrenheit.
Unlike red and shiny Sedna, the newfound object is pink and much fainter, which made it hard to detect.
By contrast, Earth is about 7,900 miles across and 93 million miles from the sun.
Sedna and VP reside in what's known as the inner Oort cloud in the outer edge of the solar system where some comets such as the sun-diving Comet ISON are thought to originate. ISON broke apart last year after brushing too close to the sun.
Far from being deserted, Sheppard and Trujillo estimate there are probably thousands of similar objects in the inner Oort cloud.
“These objects are not unique. There's a huge number out there,” Sheppard said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- EU preps further sanctions on Russia as ‘full-scale war’ looms in Ukraine
- Saudi king warns of terrorist threat to Europe, US
- Guatemalan village expels Jewish group
- Peacekeepers, rebels clash near Golan Heights
- 20 rescued from gold mine shaft
- Polish leader, Italian diplomat to fill key EU posts
- Gaza militants kill 18 alleged spies for Israel
- Israeli airstrike levels 7-story building in Gaza
- Libyan Islamist militias capture Tripoli airport
- ISIS seizes Syria military base
- 111-year-old from Japan recognized as oldest man