Thursday, September 18, 2008

Haumea Is Our Fifth Dwarf Planet

The International Astronomical Union yesterday "announced that the object previously known as 2003 EL61 is to be classified as the fifth dwarf planet in the Solar System and named Haumea." Welcome to the family, Haumea (how-MAY-uh).

I'm a little disappointed, nay, appalled with the lack of Haumea coverage from major news sources. If nothing else, I can usually count on CNN to make a dwarf-planet naming one of its lead science stories. I had to find out about this from Wikipedia.

Actually, I didn't even realize that astronomers had identified a fourth dwarf planet, but they have, and they recently named it Makemake. (That's MAH-kee-MAH-kee, not "make make.") Our roster of dwarf planets is now (in order of proximity to the sun): Ceres, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, Eris. Eris and Pluto are the largest, followed by Makemake, Haumea, and Ceres, which is really just a glorified asteroid between Mars and Jupiter.

In other astronomical news, "astronomers may finally have recorded the first image of a planet orbiting a sunlike star beyond the solar system." This planet is eight-times larger than Jupiter and eleven-times further from its sun than Neptune is from ours, so ain't nothin' livin' there. But still.


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