New Planet Identified

Palomar Observatory, San Diego, California.  July31, 2005

A planet larger than Pluto has been discovered in the outlying regions of the solar system.

Dr. Mike Brown of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., along with Chad Trujillo of the Gemini Observatory in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and David Rabinowitz, of Yale University in New Haven, Conn. discovered a planet larger than Pluto in the outlying regions of the solar system.

The team using the Samuel Oschin Telescope at the Palomar Observatory, first photographed the Object on October 31, 2003. At that time the object was so far away that its motion could not be detected until they reanalyzed the data in January of this year.  Dr. Brown announced their discovery after spending the last seven months studying the planet to better estimate its size and its motions.

The planet, a typical member of the Kuiper belt can only be classified as a planet due to its size in relation to the nine known planets. It is currently about 97AUs (an AU or Astronomical Unit is the distance between the Earth and the Sun) from the sun, making the planet the farthest-known object in the solar system, and it is third brightest of the Kuiper belt objects.

Dr. Brown added "It will be visible with a telescope over the next six months and is currently almost directly overhead in the early-morning eastern sky in the constellation Cetus."

The Planet is being designated 2003UB313, but my daughter just named it Planet 10.....

.... I hope there are no "Lectroids"

Cassini Probe May have found Lake on Titan

The Cassini probe has located a dark spot on Titan with a smooth, beach-like outline in the shape of a foot. It may be a methane lake, mission scientists concur. The dark feature is about the size of Lake Ontario and located close to the moon's south pole. It resides in the cloudiest region of Titan with churning storms and hydrocarbon rains may form.

The Probe has imaged other dark features on Titan, but this dark spot is the first to suggesting a shoreline with it's smooth edges. All others have been lined with angular or diffuse edges.

It is summer in the southern hemisphere of Titan and it is a balmy 300 F below zero. At these temperatures methane fills many of the climatic roles that water fills on Earth. Methane can exist as a solid, a liquid, or a gas, shaping landscapes on Titan, much the same way water does here on Earth.

"It has been suggested that the 'lake' may just be a broad depression filled with dark, solid hydrocarbons that have precipitated from the atmosphere, and the smooth outline may have been the result of some geological activity (the collapse of a sinkhole or volcanic caldera). Scientists hope that future passes of Titan by Cassini will confirm the nature of this newly discovered feature and perhaps even its origin.

Deep Impact Displays its own Fireworks

Monday, July 4, 2005, 6:52 a.m. GMT, the impactor left the Deep impact Mother ship and collided with Comet Tempel 1 at  approximately 23,000 mph. The copper-clad, fortified spacecraft blasted a crater and created a bright plume of gas and dust. The Deep Impact mother ship to hi resolution images in succession.

Just before the impactor struck the comet's nucleus, it returned images  of it own. Close up details of just a few meters across revealed craters or sinkholes, ridges, plateaus, plains, and surface debris. This is the first time a comet's nucleus has been seen at such high resolution.

A member the ecstatic science team, Don Yeomans, stated, "We've gotten all the data we could possibly ask for, I can't imagine how this could go any better."

After Deep Impact's close-up views of Tempel 1, suspected differences in previous investigated comets, such as Wild 2 by the Star Dust probe last year and Borrelly by Deep space 1 in 2001, are being rethought. Previous theories related to orbital paths and history but mission investigators now surmise that "Something more is going on."

E-mail About Mars

An e-mail is circulating about Mars passing close to the earth and that the event is a once-in-a-umpteen-lifetime astrological phenomenon. Well it was.... back in 2003! Sorry if you missed it but its over folks. The next time Mars is that close I do not think you will even be a memory!