[meteorite-list] Gaggle of Potential Dwarf Planets Found by Dark Energy Camera
From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Fri, 4 Apr 2014 15:27:23 -0700 (PDT)
Gaggle of dwarf planets found by dark energy camera
by Aviva Rutkin
02 April 2014
Our solar system just got a little more crowded, thanks to discoveries
from a huge digital camera designed to study dark energy.
Last week astronomers reported the discovery of 2012 VP113 - nicknamed
"Joe Biden" after the vice president, or VP, of the US. This potential
dwarf planet was spotted on the outer fringes of the solar system, in
a region called the inner Oort cloud. Days later, the same team reported
two more potential dwarfs, known as 2013 FY27 and 2013 FZ27.
Both of these objects are in the Kuiper belt, a grouping of relatively
small bodies beyond the orbit of Neptune that is also home to Pluto and
three other known dwarf planets. Astronomers suspect the Kuiper belt is
littered with dwarfs, but many either reflect too little light or are
too distant to have been visible in previous sky surveys.
FZ27 sits 50 astronomical units away from the sun, on the far edge of
the Kuiper belt (1 AU is Earth's distance from the sun). At about 600
kilometres wide, the object is probably massive enough for it to have
become nearly round under its own gravity - one of the criteria for being
classified as a dwarf planet. The other recently discovered object, FY27,
is probably about 1000 kilometres across and was found roughly 80 AU from
The fresh haul of discoveries is no coincidence. All three objects were
found in images from the Dark Energy Camera on the Blanco telescope in
Chile, which took its first images in 2012. Boasting 570 megapixels, this
camera was designed to collect the faint light from millions of very distant
galaxies in the hunt for clues to the nature of dark energy, the mysterious
force that is causing the universe to expand at an accelerating rate.
In the process, the camera collects hundreds of gigabytes of data, which
astronomers can sift through to find far-flung bodies in our solar system
that until now have been invisible.
"That's why we're finding a lot of these objects, even though they're
faint," says co-discoverer Scott Sheppard at the Carnegie Institution
for Science in Washington DC. "We expect to have many more finds in the
Received on Fri 04 Apr 2014 06:27:23 PM PDT