Sunday, July 31, 2005

Planet or Kuiper object?

Technically Pluto is probably not a planet either, yet 2003UB313 that was sited first over 2 years ago is now making the headlines again.

When Pluto was discovered in 1930, it was thought to be about the same size as Earth, but astronomers have now learned that it is only 1,413 miles (2,274 kilometers) wide -- smaller than Earth's moon.

Then, in 1992, astronomers discovered the first Kuiper Belt object, and since then have found hundreds of chunks of rock and ice beyond Neptune, including about 70 that share orbits similar to Pluto's. Ceres was called a planet in 1801 and a year later demoted, now we know it is an asteroid not a planet.

However tradition dies hard, so there is a great deal of discussion in the scentific world with the traditionalists still claiming Pluto is a planet with a number disagreeing stating Pluto is nothing more than a large ice ball.

In 2001 a large object the size of Pluto was spotted in the Kuiper Belt, 2001 KX76. Given the huge numbers of objects believed in the Kuiper Belt, including about 70 that share orbits similar to Pluto's, with the increased technology I expect more new "planets" to be found.

Will they really be planets? Guess that depends on who you talk to.