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Brilliant! Tenth planet turns out to be a shiner
Science News ^ | April 15, 2006 | Ron Cowen

Posted on 04/19/2006 4:50:42 PM PDT by neverdem

Xena, unofficially called the 10th planet, is the second-most-shiny known object in the solar system, new observations show. Scientists are scrambling to explain where Xena got its sparkle. Some suggest that it might have enough heat to belch methane, despite being in the coldest region of the solar system.

The new notion of Xena arises from Hubble Space Telescope images that were released this week. The images reveal that Xena, the most distant known object in our solar system, isn't quite the big shot that scientists had thought it was.

The chilly outpost's diameter—2,384 kilometers—makes it about 5 percent larger than Pluto, Mike Brown of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and his colleagues announced April 11. That's still large enough for Xena to retain its unofficial status as a planet, Brown says, but considerably smaller than ground-based observations had indicated (SN: 8/6/05, p. 83: http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20050806/fob2.asp).

Researchers have difficulty determining the size of remote denizens of the solar system because a large object that reflects a small amount of sunlight looks the same as a small object reflecting a lot of light.

But for Xena, the sharp Hubble pictures erase that ambiguity.

The relatively small size shown in those images indicates that the body reflects 86 percent of sunlight. Brown says he was "thoroughly shocked" by that finding. Researchers had assumed that Xena's surface was similar to that of Pluto, which reflects 60 percent of sunlight. Saturn's moon Enceladus, recently shown to be shooting out a geyser of water vapor (SN: 1/7/06, p. 13: Available to subscribers at http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20060107/note11.asp), is the only solar system object known to have a higher reflectivity, notes Brown.

Scientists have proposed two scenarios to explain Xena's high reflectivity. In one, a jet of methane leaks continuously from Xena. The methane jet freezes as it emerges, continually blanketing the surface with fresh snow.

What's the heat source that could drive such activity? "Beats me," says planetary scientist Rick Binzel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He notes that gravitational tugs from a neighboring moon sometimes generate heat within a body, but Xena's moon is too small to do that.

Another source of heat, sunlight, would penetrate only a few tens of meters below Xena's surface and would probably have long ago depleted the reserves of methane there.

In the other model, the planet has a methane-rich atmosphere created during the portion of its 560-year-long orbit when it's nearest the sun. As Xena speeds away, the atmosphere freezes on the surface as a bright frost. However, Brown says, it's not clear that such frost would be bright enough to account for the shininess of Xena's surface.


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References:

2006. Hubble finds that the 'tenth planet' is slightly larger than Pluto. Space Telescope Science Institute news release. April 11. Available at http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/newsdesk/
archive/releases/2006/16/full/
.

Further Readings:

Cowen, R. 2006. Moon spray. Science News 169(Jan. 7):13. Available to subscribers at http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20060107/note11.asp.

______. 2005. Bigger than Pluto: Tenth planet or icy leftover?. Science News 168(Aug. 6):83. Available at http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20050806/fob2.asp.

For additional images and background material about Xena, go to http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/newsdesk/
archive/releases/2006/16/
.

For additional background information about Xena from Mike Brown, go to http://www.gps.caltech.edu/~mbrown/planetlila/.

A version of this article written for younger readers is available at Science News for Kids.

Sources:

Richard Binzel
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Department of Earth and Planetary Science
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Mailstop Code 54-410
Cambridge, MA 02139-4301

Michael Brown
California Institute of Technology
Division of Geophysics & Planetary Science
Mailstop Code 150-21
Pasadena, CA 92215



http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20060415/fob8.asp

From Science NewsVol. 169, No. 15, April 15, 2006, p. 230.

Copyright (c) 2006 Science Service. All rights reserved.



TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; Government; News/Current Events; US: California; US: District of Columbia
KEYWORDS: 10thplanet; hubble; nasa; science; solarsystem; xena; xplanets
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XENA FILES. The distant sun shines on Xena, often called the 10th planet, in this illustration. Inset: The Hubble Space Telescope image that revealed Xena's size for the first time.
A. Schaller, NASA, ESA; (Inset) Brown, NASA, ESA
1 posted on 04/19/2006 4:50:45 PM PDT by neverdem
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To: neverdem

Xena may be a shiner but Xenu is, of course invisible.


2 posted on 04/19/2006 4:53:52 PM PDT by gondramB (You can always tell the pioneers by the arrows in their backs - Country music saying)
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To: Xenalyte

Congrats. You're a planet.


3 posted on 04/19/2006 5:01:11 PM PDT by JennysCool (Liberals don't care what you do, as long as it's mandatory.)
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To: neverdem

4 posted on 04/19/2006 5:02:26 PM PDT by MikefromOhio (aka MikeinIraq)
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To: gondramB

*snrk*


5 posted on 04/19/2006 5:03:08 PM PDT by null and void (Pay no attention to the imam behind the curtain...)
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To: KevinDavis

PING


6 posted on 04/19/2006 5:05:44 PM PDT by SunTzuWu (Hans Delbruck - Scientist and Saint.)
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To: King Prout; KevinDavis

ping


7 posted on 04/19/2006 5:06:09 PM PDT by neverdem (May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows that you're dead.)
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To: neverdem
Every time I read about the planet "Xena" I want to hunt down and punch the idiot who named it.
8 posted on 04/19/2006 5:07:47 PM PDT by Psycho_Bunny (The MSM is a hate group and we are the object of their disdain.)
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To: neverdem

Shiny!


9 posted on 04/19/2006 5:08:55 PM PDT by Harmless Teddy Bear (Ditch the 1967 Outer Space Treaty! I want my own space bar and grill)
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To: neverdem
In one, a jet of methane leaks continuously from Xena.

Sounds like a few friends of mine...maybe they should name this planet in honor of them.

10 posted on 04/19/2006 5:09:59 PM PDT by NittanyLion
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To: neverdem

I belched a little methane last night....


11 posted on 04/19/2006 5:24:58 PM PDT by JoJo Gunn (Help control the Leftist population. Have them spayed or neutered. )
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To: NittanyLion

"In one, a jet of methane leaks continuously from Xena."

Maybe they're mistaking it for Uranus...


12 posted on 04/19/2006 5:36:08 PM PDT by aquila48
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To: neverdem

13 posted on 04/19/2006 6:01:07 PM PDT by mikrofon (Pint-sized planet)
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To: neverdem

Lord John Whorfin: Where-a are we going?
Red Lectroids: Planet Ten!
Lord John Whorfin: When?
Red Lectroids: Real soon!

14 posted on 04/19/2006 6:34:42 PM PDT by Alex Murphy (Colossians 4:5)
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To: RightWhale; Brett66; xrp; gdc314; anymouse; NonZeroSum; jimkress; discostu; The_Victor; ...

15 posted on 04/19/2006 6:40:21 PM PDT by KevinDavis (http://www.cafepress.com/spacefuture)
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To: neverdem

What is the albedo of fresh snow? It's bright, but it isn't 100%.


16 posted on 04/19/2006 6:47:44 PM PDT by RightWhale (Off touch and out of base)
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To: RightWhale
Weren't space craft always made of this stuff ~ duraluminum or similar shiny material?
17 posted on 04/19/2006 6:51:26 PM PDT by muawiyah (-)
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To: Harmless Teddy Bear
"...Shiny!..."

The reason for the reflectivity is readily apparent. The inhabitants of Xena all wear aluminum foil around their heads to keep out the emanations.

For a long while, since it was too cold to fish, they watched ABC and CBS. Then, about 2 decades ago, ashen-faced and crestfallen, they all began to spontaneously buy up and adorn their craniums with the highly reflective foil.

We don't know why... we can only speculate. There were many job openings, but they didn't want to do them, and could no longer attract illegal aliens to do so.

"Too effing cold," an Andrusian was heard to remark as he passed them by. "I'm drawn to LA, instead".

18 posted on 04/19/2006 6:54:32 PM PDT by pickrell (Old dog, new trick...sort of)
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To: muawiyah

Yeah, but they are very colorful, which means they aren't reflecting 100% of everything. Lots of purple stuff and lots of gold stuff.


19 posted on 04/19/2006 6:59:36 PM PDT by RightWhale (Off touch and out of base)
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To: RightWhale

Oh, yeah, the purple stuff. Forgot that.


20 posted on 04/19/2006 7:03:12 PM PDT by muawiyah (-)
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To: muawiyah

If you get a specular reflection off a bank of solar cells, which ought to absorb light altogether but doesn't, the flash from sunlight is amazingly bright. Remember the Echo balloon? That was bright, and it was just aluminized mylar; a lot of sunlight went right through, but what was reflected was amazing to children around the world.


21 posted on 04/19/2006 7:12:19 PM PDT by RightWhale (Off touch and out of base)
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To: neverdem; derllak; WKB

"Some suggest that it might have enough heat to belch methane."

Whoop-de-doo, I can just go down to my neighborhood local cow pasture to find that.


22 posted on 04/19/2006 7:12:32 PM PDT by moog
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To: Psycho_Bunny

I said the same thing. "Who is the Prof. Frink looking idiot who named it PLANET XENA?"


23 posted on 04/19/2006 7:12:38 PM PDT by Holicheese (Stanley Cup's new home will be North Carolina!)
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To: Holicheese

He's an Amazon wanna-be has-been.


24 posted on 04/19/2006 7:13:35 PM PDT by moog
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To: moog

Whoop-de-doo, I can just go down to my neighborhood local cow pasture to find that.


Whoop-de-doo, or whoop doo doo??


25 posted on 04/19/2006 7:19:05 PM PDT by WKB (Science Fiction= Any science that omits God.)
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To: RadioAstronomer

Ping!


26 posted on 04/19/2006 7:23:43 PM PDT by Sam Cree (Delicacy, precision, force)
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To: neverdem
"Some suggest that it might have enough heat to belch methane"

Since the only explanation for methane gas on earth is "fossil fuel" from ancient plant life, this must mean there is fossil fuel on Xena. The heat therefore is obviously caused by global warming.

27 posted on 04/19/2006 7:39:46 PM PDT by norwaypinesavage
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To: neverdem
Xena, unofficially known as the 10th planet, is the second-most-shiny object in the solar system...

It's Bush's fault!

28 posted on 04/19/2006 7:52:57 PM PDT by Verginius Rufus
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To: neverdem
So when's the official naming debate going to start? And I hope and pray that PC crap doesn't get into this ... is there a roman/greek god of ice and winter?

Or maybe Finnish since it's so darned cold out there ... Tuonela, Loviatar, or maybe we should just call it Hades or Tarterus.

29 posted on 04/19/2006 7:53:47 PM PDT by Centurion2000 (Every man must be tempted, sometimes,to hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.)
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To: moog

Sounds like it's almost as much fun as watching the grass grow! :)


30 posted on 04/19/2006 7:55:36 PM PDT by derllak
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To: MikefromOhio

I think you have it!


31 posted on 04/19/2006 7:57:08 PM PDT by ChessExpert (Islam - a dangerous cult)
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To: Sam Cree

Thanks for the ping. :-)


32 posted on 04/19/2006 8:45:03 PM PDT by RadioAstronomer (Senior member of Darwin Central)
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To: JoJo Gunn
"I belched a little methane last night...."

Must've eaten a plate of Enceladus.
33 posted on 04/19/2006 8:50:00 PM PDT by decal (My name is "decal" and I approve this tagline)
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To: gondramB; Xenalyte

Xena may be a shiner but Xenu is, of course invisible.

I will make, of course,no comments about Xena being a shining star.

Or far out.

And nobody brought up Uranus either.


34 posted on 04/19/2006 8:53:55 PM PDT by Robert A. Cook, PE (I can only donate monthly, but Hillary's ABBCNNBCBS continue to lie every day!)
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http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/1453462/posts?page=98#98


35 posted on 04/19/2006 9:43:54 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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To: neverdem; HOTTIEBOY
Click here for possible planets and their orbits
Click here for some discussion on Orcus, a planet/planetoid that orbits at times closer to the sun than Pluto

"... Early in 2004, before Sedna, astronomers Brown, Trujillo and Rabinowitz announced they had found yet another large body using the telescope at the Palomar Observatory outside San Diego.

The mysterious object received the official scientific designation of 2004 DW. It appears to travel an elliptical orbit around the Sun, bringing it as close as 2.7 billion miles from the Sun and sending it as far out as 4.7 billion miles from the Sun. By comparison, Earth is a mere 93 million miles from the Sun.

It probably takes Orcus some 252 years to complete its orbit around the Sun.

Since 2001, Brown's team has found more than three dozen bright Kuiper Belt objects while surveying the outer range of the Solar System – first with the Samuel Oschin Telescope at Palomar Mountain in Southern California from Fall 2001, then with the Palomar QUEST camera from Summer 2003.

Orcus was announced in February 2004 and Sedna was announced in March 2004.


Further

36 posted on 04/19/2006 9:58:26 PM PDT by sully777 (wWBBD: What would Brian Boitano do?)
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To: neverdem

Arguments FOR it to be called a planet:

1> It is large enough for its own gravity to make it spherical. This is true of the other nine planets, but no other Trans-Neptune Objects (TNOs) yet found.

2> It is larger than the sum mass of everything else in the same orbit. This is true of the other planets, except Pluto, whose orbit intersects the larger planet, Neptune.


37 posted on 04/19/2006 10:02:49 PM PDT by dangus
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To: sully777

Thank you!


38 posted on 04/19/2006 10:03:44 PM PDT by neverdem (May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows that you're dead.)
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To: Xenalyte

>> In one, a jet of methane leaks continuously from Xena. <<

embarrassing!


39 posted on 04/19/2006 10:04:51 PM PDT by dangus
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To: decal

o that's good... real good.


40 posted on 04/19/2006 10:07:29 PM PDT by dangus
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To: neverdem
In one [theory], a jet of methane leaks continuously from Xena. The methane jet freezes as it emerges, continually blanketing the surface with fresh snow. -Ron Cowen

The Frozen Flatulence Effect?

41 posted on 04/19/2006 10:10:05 PM PDT by NutCrackerBoy
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To: dangus
Ever since I first saw the name of that satellite I've been wanting to use it somehow. Whew, I can die content now...
42 posted on 04/19/2006 10:12:04 PM PDT by decal (My name is "decal" and I approve this tagline)
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To: neverdem

No problem. Interest in this story is gaining momentum. IRC Time or Newsweek ran a small piece on the contraversy surrounding Pluto as a moon of Neptune because of Neptune's influence on Pluto. Meanwhile, the article suggests the asteroid Ida that orbits between Mars and Jupiter could be technically designated a planet or planetoid with a moon as per the Galileo pass in 1993. They also touched on the subject that some of the moons of jupiter and Saturn should actually be termed planets/planetoids under certain criteria.

IIRC, the article suggested that the solar system may have as many as 15 or more planets. Some of the orbits of these objects are radical compared to the Earth's. One object, mentioned in a cited thread, is UB313 which has the body cutting in front of the well-known planets and then out into deep deep space.

Some of the bodies discovered within the past six years revolve around SOL every 10,000 or more earthyears! imagine that birthday celebration.


43 posted on 04/19/2006 10:19:42 PM PDT by sully777 (wWBBD: What would Brian Boitano do?)
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To: neverdem
What's the heat source that could drive such activity?

Rich, white American males, most likely, though the exact mechanism by which this is accomplished remains to be invented.

44 posted on 04/19/2006 10:23:29 PM PDT by dead
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To: Psycho_Bunny
Every time I read about the planet "Xena" I want to hunt down and punch the idiot who named it.

In keeping with the new trend of naming planets after characters on crappy WBNetwork television shows, the 12th planet will be named "Screech."

45 posted on 04/19/2006 10:25:52 PM PDT by dead
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To: Psycho_Bunny
Every time I read about the planet "Xena" I want to hunt down and punch the idiot who named it.

Well, let's rename it. I propose Orbital Sphere X... which is shaped like an Apple... Of course we can abreviate the large words ... and come up with a nice new name, derived completely fairly:

Apple OS X...

Good name for the tenth planet... its X for ten, X for unknown and refers to its shape and brightness.

Now, no one could possible say that the name is refering to a commercial product, say like the name "Xena" refers to a commercial Television Program franchise... ;^)>

46 posted on 04/19/2006 11:26:03 PM PDT by Swordmaker (Beware of Geeks bearing GIFs.)
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To: derllak

Hey, that can be pretty fun you know--until you have to mow it.


47 posted on 04/20/2006 6:19:15 AM PDT by moog
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To: moog

Ummmm, okay! I'll just take your word for it! :P


48 posted on 04/20/2006 8:23:52 AM PDT by derllak
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To: derllak
It's at least as much fun as measuring how far a two-toed sloth has traveled in a day.
49 posted on 04/20/2006 2:32:47 PM PDT by moog
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To: sully777

50 posted on 04/22/2006 8:28:00 PM PDT by free_at_jsl.com
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