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Blog Archive

 

Eris might be smaller than Pluto after all (but it's still more massive)

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/11/08 04:48 CST

Several astronomers pointed their telescope at Eris to watch it pass in front of a background star. Occultations permit precise measurement of the diameters of distant, faint objects, and it turned out that Eris was much smaller than previously thought, so much so that its diameter may turn out to be the same as, or even smaller than, Pluto's.

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Naming X: A contest for kids to name small bodies

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/04/29 02:44 CDT

A contest has just been announced that appears to create a pathway for schoolchildren to suggest names to the International Astronomical Union for minor planets -- all those small things in the solar system that don't orbit the eight big ones.

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New maps of Pluto show pretty amazing amounts of surface change

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2010/02/04 02:17 CST

I just posted my writeup of today's press briefing on a new map of Pluto produced from Hubble images. The main conclusion was that Pluto has shown an astonishing amount of changes across its surface between 1994 and 2002 -- more, in fact, than any other solid surface in the solar system.

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Report #2 from the New Horizons Science Team Meeting

Posted by Ted Stryk on 2010/01/20 06:33 CST

The second report by Ted Stryk from the New Horizons science team meeting, focusing on the search for Kuiper belt object (KBO) targets.

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Report #1 from the New Horizons Science Team Meeting

Posted by Ted Stryk on 2010/01/19 07:55 CST

The New Horizons science team is meeting this week. Ted Stryk was invited to attend the meeting, and he sent the following notes from the first day.

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LPSC: Thursday: Rovers, Titan, Mars, Venus Express, Neptune

Posted by Ted Stryk on 2008/03/14 03:49 CDT

I spent a large portion of the day at the Lunar and Planetary Institute's library and presented my own poster during the poster sessions, so my coverage of Thursday's sessions is limited.

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OPAG, Day 2: Ground-based study of the small bodies in the outer solar system

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2006/05/07 08:10 CDT

After the political discussions of the morning, Mike Brown stood up to give the "highly subjective view of one ground-based astronomer," he said.

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(Almost) everything you ever wanted to know about New Horizons and Pluto

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2005/12/20 05:56 CST

I was browsing around the Web today looking for material to improve the information we have on our site about Pluto, and discovered that the New Horizons mission has just posted their launch press kit.

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An official pronouncement may be coming about the "what is a planet?" debate

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla on 2005/09/21 02:28 CDT

Since the discovery of 2003 UB313, larger than Pluto, there's been a lively debate going on in many places about what makes a planet. There's now an article in Nature talking about a proposal that would address the controversy

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Pluto: The Discovery of a Planet

Posted by Amir Alexander on 2005/02/18 11:00 CST

To mark the 75th anniversary of the discovery of the planet Pluto, The Planetary Society presents to its readers the remarkable story of the discovery.

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The Discovery of a Planet, Part 6: From Pluto to Sedna

Posted by Amir Alexander on 2005/02/17 11:00 CST

74 years after Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto as a faint dot on a pair of photographic plates, a modern group of astronomers made another remarkable discovery. On March 15, 2004, Michael Brown of Caltech, Chad Trujillo of the Gemini Observatory, and David Rabinowitz of Yale announced the discovery of Sedna – the furthest object ever detected in the Solar System.

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The Discovery of a Planet, Part 5: The Aftermath

Posted by Amir Alexander on 2005/02/16 11:00 CST

The discovery of Planet X was announced to the world on March 13, 1930, which marked the anniversary of William Herschel’s discovery of Uranus in 1781 as well as Percival Lowell’s birthday. The observatory’s communiqué emphasized that the discovery was no coincidence, but the vindication of Lowell’s predictions made years before.

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The Discovery of a Planet, Part 4: Clyde's Search

Posted by Amir Alexander on 2005/02/15 11:00 CST

Since his teenage years Clyde Tombaugh had been an avid amateur astronomer and a gifted telescope builder. Based on instructions contained in an article from a boy’s Sunday school paper, he built a series of telescopes of increasing power and quality on the family farm.

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The Discovery of a Planet, Part 3: Planet X

Posted by Amir Alexander on 2005/02/14 11:00 CST

The discovery of Neptune accounted for nearly all the unexplained motions of the outer planets of the Solar System. Nevertheless, several astronomers insisted that some unexplained residual motions remained, pointing to the presence of a ninth planet beyond the orbit of Neptune.

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The Discovery of a Planet, Part 2: Out of the Six-Planet World

Posted by Amir Alexander on 2005/02/13 11:00 CST

Since humans first set their eyes to the stars, they noticed that a few of these bright objects behaved differently from the others. Whereas all the stars moved together, revolving around the Earth once every 24 hours, five appeared to move within the firmament among the other stars. Accordingly, they were named “planets,” meaning “wanderers” in Greek.

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The Discovery of a Planet, Part 1: The Blinking Image

Posted by Amir Alexander on 2005/02/12 11:00 CST

February 18, 1930, was a cloudy day at the Lowell Observatory, on top of Mars Hill in Flagstaff, Arizona. 22 year old Clyde Tombaugh was hard at work, peering through the lens of an ancient-looking brass-colored device. The instrument, known as a “blink comparator,” mounted two large photographic plates.

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