Wed, 26 Mar 2014 11:46 CDT
An international team of astronomers, led by Felipe Braga-Ribas (Observatório Nacional/MCTI, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), has used telescopes at seven locations in South America, including the 1.54-metre Danish and TRAPPIST telescopes at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile, to make a surprise discovery in the outer Solar System.
This unexpected result raises several unanswered questions and is expected to provoke much debate. A press conference will be held in Brazil to present the new results and allow opportunities for questions.
Note that all information regarding these findings is under strict embargo until 19:00 CET (15:00 BRT) on Wednesday 26 March 2014.
When: The conference will be held on 26 March 2014 at 14:30 local time (BRT) and will take place in Portuguese with a summary in English.
More at: http://www.sott.net/article/276315-Press-conference-in-Brazil-to-announce-discovery-in-outer-Solar-System
The rings of Saturn are one of the most spectacular sights in the sky, and less prominent rings have also been found around the other giant planets. Despite many careful searches, no rings had been found around smaller objects orbiting the Sun in the Solar System. Now observations of the distant minor planet (10199) Chariklo as it passed in front of a star have shown that this object too is surrounded by two fine rings.
More at: http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1410/
By Elizabeth Landau, CNN, March 26, 2014
But here's a new exciting find from the far reaches of our solar system: Astronomers have discovered a dwarf planet that's even farther away than Pluto -- so far, in fact, that its orbit reaches into a new edge of the solar system.
The dwarf planet's current name is 2012 VP113, and it is located in a "wasteland or badland of the solar system," said astronomer Chad Trujillo, head of adaptive optics at Gemini Observatory in Hawaii and co-discoverer of this object. His study was published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
"The big question is, how is this formed? How can you get an object out there?" he said. "We really don't know an answer to that yet."
This dwarf planet is unusual because of its orbit, Trujillo said. On its elliptical path, the closest it ever comes to the sun is still very far away from the rest of the solar system. Its full orbit is farther than the orbit of any other object we know of in the solar system.
More at: http://edition.cnn.com/2014/03/26/tech/innovation/dwarf-planet-solar-system/
The dwarf planet, for now dubbed 2012 VP113 because it was spotted in images taken in November 2012 - is an interesting discovery in itself. Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington DC and his colleagues found that it is a lump of rock and ice 450 kilometres wide and lies at 80 astronomical units from the sun at its closest approach (1 AU is Earth's distance from the sun).
That's twice as far as the most famous dwarf planet, Pluto, which is 2340 kilometres wide and also beats the previous record holder, a 1000-kilometre-wide planetoid called Sedna, discovered in 2003, with a closest approach of 76 AU out.
Objects orbiting this far from the sun, in the "inner Oort cloud", are useful to probe the early solar system. That's because they lie too far away to be perturbed by the gas planets, but too close to the sun to be affected by the gravity of other stars in our galaxy - so their orbits and behaviour are thought to be almost unchanged since they first formed. "Once we find more objects in this region, we'll be able to start to strongly constrain the possible formation scenarios," says Sheppard.
More at: http://www.sott.net/article/276322-New-dwarf-planet-hints-at-giant-world-far-beyond-Pluto