Dwarf Planets at AAAS
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Sunday morning in the Hilton Franciscan Room D Vivien White talked about project ASTRO, an initiative to provide astronomers for K-12 classrooms. Saturday afternoon in Continental Ballroom 3 astronomer Michael Brown talked about minor planets. He is known for discovery of 2003 UB313, the largest known dwarf planet. Originally he wanted to name it Xena, and its satellite Gabrielle. Finally the IAU settled on the name Eris for UB313 and Dysnomia for its satellite. Eris is goddess of discord and Dysnomia of lawlessness. As we all know, Lucy Lawless played Xena!
Object 2003 EL61 orbits at a 30-degree inclination to the solar system, spinning end over end like an American football. It also has a moon, which has allowed astronomers to calculate its mass. These objects were located by an automated telescope atop Mount Palomar, and noticed by an automated system searching thousands of images. The sky is a big place--at this scale Earth's orbit would be inside the yellow dot!
Eris is approximately 2400 km in diameter. Her orbit is inclined 45 degrees to the solar system plane, a fact which astronomers are at a loss to explain. If these dwarf planets formed around singularities, they could have any inclination. Orbits of these tiny Black Holes initially surrounded the Sun like an electron cloud. Even a 500 km moon like Enceladus may contain a singularity. Our galaxy may still be surrounded by a Black Hole cloud, leading to signs of dark mass.