Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Hubble Finds 'Tenth Planet' Is Slightly Larger Than Pluto

Date:
April 17, 2006
Source:
Space Telescope Science Institute
Summary:
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has resolved the "tenth planet," nicknamed "Xena," for the first time and has found that it is only just a little larger than Pluto. Though previous ground-based observations suggested that Xena was about 30 percent greater in diameter than Pluto, Hubble observations taken on Dec. 9 and 10, 2005, yield a diameter of 1,490 miles (with an uncertainty of 60 miles) for Xena. Pluto's diameter, as measured by Hubble, is 1,422 miles.

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has resolved the "tenth planet," nicknamed "Xena," for the first time and has found that it is only just a little larger than Pluto.
Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Brown (California Institute of Technology)

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has resolved the "tenth planet," nicknamed "Xena" for the first time, and has found that it is only just a little larger than Pluto.

Though previous ground-based observations suggested that Xena was about 30 percent greater in diameter than Pluto, Hubble observations taken on Dec. 9 and 10, 2005, yield a diameter of 1,490 miles (with an uncertainty of 60 miles) for Xena. Pluto's diameter, as measured by Hubble, is 1,422 miles.

"Hubble is the only telescope capable of getting a clean visible-light measurement of the actual diameter of Xena," said Mike Brown, planetary scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif. Brown's research team discovered Xena, and their results have been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal.

It only required a couple of Hubble images to nail Xena's diameter. Located 10 billion miles away, but with a diameter that is a little more than half the width of the United States, the object is 1.5 pixels across in Hubble's view. That's enough to precisely make a size measurement.

Because Xena is smaller than earlier thought, but comparatively bright, it must be one of the most reflective objects in the solar system. The only object more reflective is Enceladus, a geologically active moon of Saturn whose surface is continuously recoated with highly reflective ice by active geysers.

Xena's bright reflectivity is possibly due to fresh methane frost overlying the surface. It is possible that Xena had an atmosphere when it was closer to the Sun, but "froze out" at its current large distance, and material settled on its surface as frost.

Another possibility is that Xena is also continuously leaking methane gas from its warmer interior. When this methane makes it to the cold surface it immediately freezes solid, covering craters and other features to make this Kuiper Belt object (KBO) uniformly bright to Hubble's telescopic eye.

Xena is officially catalogued as 2003 UB313. Its orbital period is about 560 years, and the KBO is now very close to aphelion (the point on its orbit that is farthest from the Sun).

Brown next plans to use Hubble and other telescopes to study other recently discovered KBOs that are almost as large as Pluto and Xena. The Kuiper Belt is a vast ring of primordial icy comets and larger bodies encircling Neptune's orbit.

Finding that the largest known KBO is a virtual twin to Pluto may only further complicate the debate about whether to categorize the large icy worlds that dwell in the Kuiper Belt as planets. If Pluto were considered to be the minimum size for a planet, then Xena would fulfill this criterion, too.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Space Telescope Science Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Space Telescope Science Institute. "Hubble Finds 'Tenth Planet' Is Slightly Larger Than Pluto." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 April 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/04/060417131556.htm>.
Space Telescope Science Institute. (2006, April 17). Hubble Finds 'Tenth Planet' Is Slightly Larger Than Pluto. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/04/060417131556.htm
Space Telescope Science Institute. "Hubble Finds 'Tenth Planet' Is Slightly Larger Than Pluto." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/04/060417131556.htm (accessed September 20, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

MIT BioSuit A New Take On Traditional Spacesuits

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The MIT BioSuit could be an alternative to big, bulky traditional spacesuits, but the concept needs some work. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Boeing, SpaceX to Send Astronauts to Space Station

Boeing, SpaceX to Send Astronauts to Space Station

AFP (Sep. 17, 2014) NASA selected Boeing and SpaceX on Tuesday to build America's next spacecraft to carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) by 2017, opening the way to a new chapter in human spaceflight. Duration: 01:13 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

East Coast Treated To Rare Meteor Sighting

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) Numerous residents along the East Coast reported seeing a bright meteor flash through the sky Sunday night. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 16, 2014) Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' startup will team up with Boeing and Lockheed to develop rocket engines as Elon Musk races to have his rockets certified. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins