A team of researchers from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, CA, Yale University in New Haven, CT, and Gemini Observatory in Hilo, HI, report the discovery of a new planet in the outer solar system. Officially designated 2003 UB313, the new planet is intrinsically brighter than Pluto and three times farther away. Assuming the reflectivity of the surface is the same as Plutos, it is the largest object detected in the solar system since the discovery of Neptune and its moon Triton in 1846.
The discovery team consists of Michael Brown at Caltech, David Rabinowitz at Yale, and Chad Trujillo at the Gemini Observatory. This is the same team that a year ago announced their discovery of Sedna, a smaller body also at the distant edges of our solar system. The team has since discovered several other Pluto-scale bodies including 2005 FY9 and 2003 EL61, both objects in the outer solar system comparable in size to Pluto but smaller. 2003 EL61 was independently discovered by Spanish astronomers and reported today.
All of the new discoveries have been made with the Palomar QUEST camera, a gigantic digital camera built at Yale University and mounted on the 48-inch-diameter telescope at the Palomar Observatory in California. With this camera, observers can search the entire northern sky multiple times with greater sensitivity than any other telescope in the world. The Palomar Quest camera is currently being used by researchers at Yale, Caltech, and the University of California at Berkeley to search not only for new planets, but also for supernovae, distant galaxies, and variable stars.
David Rabinowitz | EurekAlert!
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