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Astronomers discover new world beyond Pluto

February 21, 2004 00:14 IST
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For all those who always wondered what was beyond Pluto, here's some news.

Astronomers have discovered ice and rock circling the sun beyond the cold planet, the BBC reports. It has been designated 2004 DW.

Initial estimates suggest the ice-rock mass may be up to 1,800 miles across. This would make it the largest body, apart from a 'true planet' circling the sun, the BBC says.

Pluto, which was discovered in 1930, itself is 2,300 miles across. DW 2004 is larger than Pluto's moon Charon, which is 1,300 miles across.

California Institute of Technology astronomers Chad Trujillo and Mike Brown along with Yale University's Mike Brown and David Rabinowitz discovered the mass on February 17 using an automated sky survey telescope.  The same found Quaoar, which is 1,000-1,400 miles across.

More than 800 space bodies have been found in the outer solar system since 1992. Out of those only five are larger than 1,000 km across. Astronomers believe that there are many such objects and masses to be discovered in the outer reaches of the solar system. They call them 'Kuiper Belt Objects'.

The Kuiper Belt is a region inhabited by small worlds of rock and ice. It is similar in some ways to the Asteroid Belt -- a region of rocky debris between Mars and Jupiter. The KB, however, contains a hundred times more material than all the asteroids put together.


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