The Tenth Planet

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NumberTen copyright 2016 by Marc Dantonio

The Solar System has been giving up its secrets to us little by little. From the earliest Stone Age astronomers to today’s Astrophysicists, we march forward in the quest for knowledge and our scientific endeavor has been richly rewarded. We have been treated to unprecedented views of our place in space and our retinue of planets.

We have seen Pluto in amazing detail, a wrongfully demoted planet in my view with 5 moons of its own with a richly varied terrain. We have seen water ice geysers on Saturn’s moon Enceladus, discovered a slushy ocean 100 miles deep on Jupiter’s moon Europa, and witnessed an early Earth environment on Saturn’s moon Titan. These are just a few of our “greatest hits”.

For centuries though we have wondered if there could be a tenth planet out beyond Pluto. Well, the debate was actually settled back in 2005 when a tenth planet, (or ninth if you don’t believe Pluto is a planet), was indeed found. Given the unceremonious temporary name 2003 UB313, the newly-found planet is 97 astronomical units from the Sun.

An astronomical unit or AU as you may know is the distance from Earth to the Sun. In miles an AU is 93 million miles.The newly found planet is 97 times further away. At that extraordinary distance, the feeble light of the Sun takes nearly 13 HOURS to arrive.

Pluto is 40 AU away from the Sun compared to 2003 UB313 and can be seen only in the most powerful telescopes as a tiny dot of light. But Pluto’s gravitational effects on the other planets is measurable and led to its discovery. Even if only by mistake… (read on)

Taking a step back in history lets look for a moment at the —> Read More

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