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Newly discovered dwarf planet takes 700 years to orbit the sun

This magnificent 360-degree panoramic image, covering the entire southern and northern celestial sphere, reveals the cosmic landscape that surrounds our tiny blue planet. This gorgeous starscape serves as the first of three extremely high-resolution images featured in the GigaGalaxy Zoom project, launched by ESO within the framework of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009). The plane of our Milky Way Galaxy, which we see edge-on from our perspective on Earth, cuts a luminous swath across the image. The projection used in GigaGalaxy Zoom place the viewer in front of our Galaxy with the Galactic Plane running horizontally through the image — almost as if we were looking at the Milky Way from the outside. From this vantage point, the general components of our spiral galaxy come clearly into view, including its disc, marbled with both dark and glowing nebulae, which harbours bright, young stars, as well as the Galaxy’s central bulge and its satellite galaxies. As filming extended over several months, objects from the Solar System came and went through the star fields, with bright planets such as Venus and Jupiter. For copyright reasons, we cannot provide here the full 800-million-pixel original image, which can be requested from Serge Brunier. The high resolution image provided here contains 18 million pixels.

A new dwarf planet has been discovered in the icy realms of space beyond Neptune, researchers said Monday.

An international team of astronomers spotted the tiny world using the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope as part of the ongoing Outer Solar System Origins Survey.

“The icy worlds beyond Neptune trace how the giant planets formed and then moved out from the Sun. They let us piece together the history of our Solar System,” Michele Bannister of the University of Victoria in British Columbia said in a statement.

“But almost all of these icy worlds are painfully small and faint: it’s really exciting to find one that’s large and bright enough that we can study it in detail.”

Icy dwarfs

Planet RR245 is around 435 miles wide, just over 5% the width of the Earth, and has one of the largest orbits of any dwarf planet, taking an estimated 700 years to travel around the sun.

There are believed to be as many as 200 dwarf planets in the Kuiper Belt, the huge mass of comets, frozen rocks and other objects orbiting the sun beyond Neptune.

However, only five objects — Ceres, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris — had previously been observed well enough to be sure they fit the classification for dwarf planet (and weren’t, say, mere planetoids, or moons of other trans-Neptunian objects).

“Worlds of this size are fascinating because they can potentially tell us about what makes an object go from being an unchanging lumpy mashed-together structure of ice and rock to having geological processes that separate and rearrange its material, as happens on Pluto,” saysBannister.

“The size of RR245 is not yet exactly known, as its surface properties need further measurement. It’s either small and shiny, or large and dull.”

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