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New Object Found at Edge of Solar System 280

Rei writes to tell us NewScientist is reporting that a new object has been found beyond Pluto. The new object, nicknamed "Buffy", has an almost circular orbit which is tilted some 47 degrees off of most other bodies in our solar system. From the article: "Neptune has been blamed for scattering many other [Kuiper Belt Objects] into tilted paths. But these tend to show other signs of a past interaction with the giant planet, such as moving in elliptical paths and having one part of their orbit pass near Neptune's at 30 astronomical units from the Sun. [Buffy], however, follows a nearly circular path. And it is too distant to have come into direct contact with Neptune, traveling between 52 and 62 AU from the Sun. Its orbit is also too circular - and too small - to have been tilted by a passing star."
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New Object Found at Edge of Solar System

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  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @03:47PM (#14258841) Journal
    ... how many vampires has it slain? :-)
  • Heechee? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MacBrave ( 247640 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @03:49PM (#14258854) Journal
    Gateway [amazon.com] here we come!!!!
  • Other names (Score:3, Informative)

    by Rei ( 128717 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @03:50PM (#14258867) Homepage
    Just to point out that while few if any of these nicknames are going to stick once the IAU has a whack at it, we now have:

    Xena (and moon Gabrielle)
    Easterbunny
    Santa (and moon Rudolph, plus one unnamed)
    Buffy

    Am I missing any of the new wacky-named bodies? :)
  • by Silverlancer ( 786390 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @03:50PM (#14258868)
    I vote that we send Joss Whedon to explore this "Buffy."
  • Obviously it would take years, and stretch the bourndaries of tech and all that, but how much of a nerd dream would it be to get a decent probe out to the Kuiper Belt in say, 30 years. Accurately take stock of some of the larger planetary wannabes. Maybe I just cared too much in Astronomy class.
  • Shameful... (Score:5, Funny)

    by MutantHamster ( 816782 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @03:51PM (#14258883) Homepage
    "Neptune has been blamed for scattering many other [Kuiper Belt Objects] into tilted paths."

    Tsk tsk. So typical of today's media. Always ready to play the blame-game.

    • Fox News: They're trying to criminalize astrometrics.

      Bush: I mean some people are actually saying Neptune shouldn't have gotten involved in the Kuiper Belt. I disagree. The danger to the solar system from rogue celestial bodies is immense. It must be dealt with. And Neptune has been making a lot of progress in the war on asteroids, but there's a lot of work left to be done. Neptunians must understand that this is a difficult issue. It is going to take time. In a few millenia and there will be stable
  • Windex (Score:5, Funny)

    by AviLazar ( 741826 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @03:52PM (#14258889) Journal
    It's not a new space object, it's a piece of lint on the telescope.
  • 1,2,3... (Score:5, Funny)

    by aprilsound ( 412645 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @03:52PM (#14258895) Homepage
    Neptune has been blamed for scattering many other [Kuiper Belt Objects] into tilted paths...

    ...damn you neptune!!!


    Oops, I mean, KAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHNNNNN!!!!!!!!!

  • Pluto and Xena... finally we found out there might be a few more planets to explore in the kuiper belt. buffy is probably a boring one. > 150 objects. So, no surprise, no sensation.
  • From TFA (Score:4, Insightful)

    by the computer guy nex ( 916959 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @03:54PM (#14258925)
    "He ventures another possible explanation - that the Sun had a twin and that both stars followed circular orbits around each other"

    2 problems with this.

    1) Stars do not dissapear. They continue to have fusion on larger and larger elements until it hits a point it cannot generate enough heat to fuse the next one. None of our planets match the description of a dead star.

    2) "Twin" stars are remarkably identical, and our sun has plenty of life left.
    • Could be they meant something along the lines of a brown dwarf.

      As they said...there were problems ;-)

      --LWM
    • Re:From TFA (Score:4, Informative)

      by forand ( 530402 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @04:05PM (#14259045) Homepage
      I do not know why you think that twin stars mean they are remarkably identical. There are, in fact, many examples that we know of where a star and neutron star orbit eachother, or a star and a black hole, or a neutron star and a black hole. These all came from a star orbiting star scenario and the two were not remarkably identical. Secondly it is still possible that the sun has a twin that it orbits which we have not properly characterized. A brown dwarf would be a reasonable example of a possible twin. It does not put out much light and we might have thought it was further away than it actually is or it has yet to be seen.

      While we would all like it if we could tell exactly how far away things are to within a high degree of accuracy it is simply not the case for all objects we see in the sky.
      • Re:From TFA (Score:5, Informative)

        by phlegmofdiscontent ( 459470 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @05:40PM (#14259872)
        A brown dwarf companion of the sun would probably have been discovered by now. The closest known brown dwarves are Epsilon Indi Ba and Epsilon Indi Bb, located 11.8 light years (3.63 parsecs) away. While they have very low visual luminosities (I haven't seen any published figures), they are relatively bright in the infrared (11.9 in the J band). Now, let's say a conjectured companion of the sun is 10,000 AU away. That's 0.05 parsecs, or 72.6 times closer than the Epsilon Indi brown dwarves. Since brightness is proportional to the square of the distance, that makes it 5271 times brighter or about 9.3 magnitudes brighter, giving a magnitude of 2.6 in the J band. There just aren't that many stars that bright in the infrared. It would have been noticed by now by the 2 Micron All-Sky Survey.
        Similarly, nearby stars are usually discovered by proper motion surveys since nearby stars will appear to move faster against the background than far stars. Any companions of the sun would have been noticed. So there, in a nutshell, is a nail in the coffin of the Nemesis theory.
    • Re:From TFA (Score:2, Interesting)

      by bluejack ( 15048 )
      Agreed theories about a companion star seem odd in that there is no evidence for a companion star, but twin stars are not "remarkably identical" -- the galaxy is populated by all sorts of mix-n-match stellar bodies.
    • Re:From TFA (Score:2, Insightful)

      This is the old Nemesis star theory (also blamed for perturbing Oort cloud objects). I remember reading about it at least 10 years ago. But, I also recall reading back then that we had the ability to measure perturbations that it would cause with enough accuracy to confirm its existence within a few years (that being I'd think 15 years ago). Any resident astronomers?
    • Re:From TFA (Score:3, Funny)

      by metlin ( 258108 )

      I'm sure it's Apophis' fault.

      Somebody's gotta teach that dude how to die. :-\
    • Re:From TFA (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Sorry, there are numerous problems with your statements.

      1) Stars do disappear, in fact all low mass stars, stars with a solar mass of less than 8, will disappear eventually. It just so happens that it takes an inordinate amount of time for them to do so, on the order of 50 billion years for stars with a post supergiant solar mass of less than 1.4. (See Chandrasekhar Limit for more information.) Such stars would have long since stopped burning hydrogen and helium, the only two elements such stars would

    • "Stars do not dissapear."

      First off, they do [wikipedia.org]. Where do you think the material to make up the sun and the planets (and us) came from?

      Secondly, they do move. A lot. Tidal forces could have broken up the pair a long time ago.

      ""Twin" stars are remarkably identical,"

      Explain Algol [wikipedia.org].
    • Re:From TFA (Score:3, Informative)

      by jd ( 1658 )
      Binary systems can be near-identical, but don't have to be. That is not a requirement. A star forms when a region of hydrogen/dust cloud has a slightly higher density that normal and the hydrogen collapses inwards under gravity. Alpha Centauri formed from the same hydrogen/dust cloud the sun did but is clearly not identical as it has no viable solar system at this time.

      It would be possible (not likely, but possible) for a star to have formed in a position and at a time such that Alpha Centauri prevented it

  • by sharkey ( 16670 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @03:55PM (#14258930)
    Picture [kenbmiller.com] of "Buffy" taken by the Voyager probe.
  • by teutonic_leech ( 596265 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @03:56PM (#14258944)
    Wow! That's 52 times the distance between the sun and the earth (1 AE = 91 million miles) which places that object at a distance of 4.7Billion miles from the sun. Amazing to think that there actually exists any type of 'orbit' - makes me feel very very small...
    • We all are small. Hopefully when a majority of people realize that they will begin to see how small their problems with eachother really are.
    • by rob_squared ( 821479 ) <rob@rob[ ]uared.com ['-sq' in gap]> on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @04:22PM (#14259237)
      Then I hate to break this to you, but the oort cloud, which is part of our solar system, is between 50,000 and 100,000 Astronomical Units away:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oort_cloud [wikipedia.org]
    • > That's 52 times the distance between the sun and the earth - makes me feel very very small...

      I could never understand such abjectly pitiful thinking. Why would anyone feel small while looking at big things? I always feel big and powerful for being able to imagine big things like the solar system. It truly makes one appreciate being human, when we can create such big ideas, travel so far, and sit astride a light year looking down at it like a plaything.
      • Re:Small?? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Darius Jedburgh ( 920018 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @04:43PM (#14259400)
        It stems from a confusion between 'small' as in size and 'small' as in insignificant. For some reason people seem to think that the fact that they are physically small compared to a galaxy, say, makes them insignificant, as if significance is a thing handed to you by the universe rather than being something humans find or make. I guess some people can't tell the difference between a literal and a metaphorical statement.
        • Re:Small?? (Score:2, Interesting)

          by CRiMSON ( 3495 )
          Or maybe it's because trying to imagine what 4.7 Billion miles away is in actual distance. It's easy to say oh yah 4 miles away, or 100, or even 1000's. But when you get into milions, and billions of miles. It's humbling to think that there is something out there, that far away. I personally think that is damn cool, and mind numbing at the same time.
          • 'The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.' -- Douglas Adams.
    • That's 52 times the distance between the sun and the earth (1 AE = 91 million miles) which places that object at a distance of 4.7Billion miles from the sun.

      When I was a kid in the 60s, the Sun was 93 million miles from the earth . . . [checks out window] . . . and it still is. That makes it more like 4.8 billion miles, which you can quickly check by Googling on "52 AU to miles".

      And if that makes you feel insignificant, consider that the Sun and the other stars in the galaxy are orbiting around its ce

  • Looks like Vader has found us again! Hope the planetary shields hold up.

    http://religiousfreaks.com/ [religiousfreaks.com]
  • by Puhase ( 911920 )
    If these astronomers are going for "bang" with their names, why not choose something offensive like a racial slur instead of something cute. Or name the planet after genitelia like Uranus. Planit Hizpenis or Jerbrest. If they don't care about going intellectual, why care about tact at all?

    It seems to me like its either Disney or Fox who is getting the naming rights to these planets.
  • by mjolnir_ ( 115649 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @04:09PM (#14259090)


    "That's no moon."

    -mj
  • Take that brian Tanner's teacher!!!

    Alf was right all along!
  • by option8 ( 16509 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @04:25PM (#14259263) Homepage
    how long until we redefine what the "edge" of the solar system is? since we keep finding new things further and further out.

    are there objects outside the heliopause? would they be considered outside the solar system, or would that push the "edge" further still?

    • "are there objects outside the heliopause? would they be considered outside the solar system, or would that push the "edge" further still?"

      No, not really. Heliopause marks where the sun's electromagnetic influences are cancelled out by the rest of the galaxy's. In many ways, it's a lot like a planet's magnetic sphere, only orders of magnitude more powerful.

      With the relative strength of gravity compared to electromagnetism, it's highly doubtful that the suns gravity would have such a discernible influence.
    • I dunno about the average Slahxpert (say it out loud, it has a nice Futurama ring to it hehe) or "scientific media whore" but I'd define the edge of the solar system to be the heliosphere.

      NASA seems to agree http://www.nasa.gov/vision/universe/solarsystem/vo yager_agu.html [nasa.gov] so I guess I'm wrong... at least on Slashdot ;)
  • I wonder if it is a captured Brown Dwarf, which wandered by our solar system millions of years ago, and got into an orbit around our Sol. Not to be confused with a Red Dwarf, which is only about a million years old as I understand it, and has holograms for people. As long as they were naming it for TV shows, they could have picked one that suited it better...
  • by DaFallus ( 805248 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @04:34PM (#14259330)
    The United States government has just green-lit a project to send a ship to the edge of the solar system to study this new object. I hear that the scientists and other passengers will be cryogenically frozen during the long trip and that the pilots will be assisted by Microsoft's latest breakthrough in artificial intelligence: Computer Lifeforce Intelligent Pilot Project: Year 9000 edition, or C.L.I.P.P.Y 9000 for short.
  • Old news? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Gunnery Sgt. Hartman ( 221748 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @04:37PM (#14259342) Homepage
    I'm too lazy to read the article or to look up past slashdot posts, but hasn't this been discovered before? It seems like every few months scientists come out with a new "planet" beyond Pluto. Are they all "discovering" the same one, or are we up to ten objects beyond Pluto that also circle our sun?
  • It's Rama!

  • by Samrobb ( 12731 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @04:53PM (#14259494) Homepage Journal

    Now he's going to have to move Kobold.

  • Well... (Score:4, Funny)

    by the phantom ( 107624 ) * on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @04:53PM (#14259499) Homepage
    I, for one, welcome our new vampire slaying overlords.
  • No, that's Rupert (Score:2, Informative)

    by MigLar2000 ( 688295 )
    Obviously that's Rupert they're talking about. It's been Rupert since 1992. See Mostly Harmless for details.
  • I'm pretty sure this must have something to do with Planet X [wikipedia.org] - and if it doesn't, just give it a year or two and soon it'll be all the rage on those late night radio shows...
  • Will Buffy be circling Uranus at any point?

    (ba DUM dum)
  • As far as I know, the only things that can circularize orbits are tidal forces and drag from gas, neither of which are significant in that region of the solar system. Possibly the orbit was perturbed twice, once by Neptune to put it in a highly inclined, highly elliptical orbit and once by another body (possibly a star or another KB object). That last one would have to occur at the right time and place, though, and would be quite rare. Maybe this is the freak of the solar system.
  • Hmm... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Jugalator ( 259273 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @06:07PM (#14260023) Journal
    I have good Faith in that unless this is a Willow, she'll have a little Angel orbiting it called "Xander", that rises in the Dawn during its frosty winters as well as its icy Summers... Too bad there's not even an Oz. of hospitality to humans there, or it would be nice to visit this body, forever Chasing through space. :-p
  • Direct contact? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pedrito ( 94783 ) on Wednesday December 14, 2005 @09:10PM (#14260877)
    "...follows a nearly circular path. And it is too distant to have come into direct contact with Neptune..."

    I suspect that any Kuiper Belt object that's come in direct contact with Neptune is now part of Neptune.

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