back to article ECCENTRIC, PINK DWARF dubbed 'Biden' by saucy astronomers

A new dwarf planet has been discovered in the Inner Oort cloud that encircles our Solar System some 12 billion miles from Sol. The planet is a frozen shrimp of a thing – an estimated 450 kilometres across with a surface temperature of -432 degrees Fahrenheit and is presumed to be largely made up of ice that gives it a reddish …

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  1. Grikath

    Fahrenheit .... in space?

    15.4 K would be the the correct denomination, if you bother to explain AU in the same article.

    Which makes the presumption it's mostly made of ice rather plausible... It's *just* above the freezing point of hydrogen... brrrrr....

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: Fahrenheit .... in space?

      The strange thing is, The Register has has a web page specially prepared for unfamiliar units of measurements: http://www.theregister.co.uk/Design/page/reg-standards-converter.html

      If the article had said -12.9Hiltons, it would have made some kind of sense. Is there anyone with a clue what -432 Fahrenheit is without converting it to Kelvin (or possibly Centigrade) first?

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: Fahrenheit .... in space?

        I thought it was some oblique reference to a hitherto unknown sequel to Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451".

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fahrenheit .... in space?

        > Is there anyone with a clue what -432 Fahrenheit

        I had a clue that it sounds pretty bloody cold

        1. RegGuy1

          -432 Fahrenheit

          So how many bushels of wheat is that, then?

      3. Captain DaFt

        Re: Fahrenheit .... in space?

        "Is there anyone with a clue what -432 Fahrenheit is without converting it to Kelvin (or possibly Centigrade) first?"

        Damned freakin' cold!

    2. MJI Silver badge

      Thanks for converting to the British from the Dutch German

      As I do not understand at all the Dutch/German temperature system and use interchangable the British and Swedish systems.

      1. Scroticus Canis

        Re: Thanks for converting to the British from the Dutch German

        Well I never could understand the Swedish chef on the Muppet Show either.

        So what do you use for a temperature scale in Sweden, Fahrenheit still? The UK mostly uses Centigrade except for a few really old die-hards. Thought the 'merkins were the only Fahrenheit hold-outs.

        1. Boothy

          Re: Thanks for converting to the British from the Dutch German

          @ Scroticus Canis

          And even in the USA, C (or K), in fact metric in general, is used in scientific circles (and also military/engineering peeps for that matter).

          Plus anyone that knows what an AU is, really should be fully familiar with the metric system. So has no reason to 'dumb down' an article by using Fahrenheit!

        2. MJI Silver badge

          Re: Thanks for converting to the British from the Dutch German

          Dutch/German = Fahrenheit

          British = Kelvin

          Swedish = Celcius

          Must be about 285 outside here

          1. Bassey

            Re: Thanks for converting to the British from the Dutch German

            Wasn't it also agreed, after a reader vote a couple of years ago, that the Reg would stop using imperial units except in cases where they were the international standard (aviation height in feet for example)? In all other cases metric and/or Reg standards are obligatory.

            I have the tar, who was looking after the feathers?

        3. Lars Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Thanks for converting to the British from the Dutch German

          Celsius, also known as centigrade, is a scale and unit of measurement for temperature. It is named after the Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius (1701–1744), ...

  2. Gene Cash Silver badge
    Coat

    just a viral marketing push

    For the new KSP asteroid mission pack...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    ""The really interesting thing about Sedna and VP133 is that it shows how little we know about our own Solar System: the fact that there's a whole population of objects out there, the fact that we don't even know how they are formed, and the possibility that there could be large planets out in that area that we don’t even know about yet," Trujillo explained"

    That's awesome, exciting and awesome (yes, I said awesome twice).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That's awesome, exciting and awesome (yes, I said awesome twice).

      Er, that's three times.

      I'll get my coat.

      1. The last doughnut

        Re: That's awesome, exciting and awesome (yes, I said awesome twice).

        It may well be awesome but tremendous it is not.

  4. Alister Silver badge

    When measuring distances in space scientists use astronomical units, with one AU being exactly 149,597,870,700 meters – or the distance from the Sun to the Earth.

    Is this an average? as I thought the Earth's orbit was elliptical?

    1. h4rm0ny

      >>Is this an average? as I thought the Earth's orbit was elliptical?

      It's an average. The Earth is around 152 x 10^6m away at its furthest (aphelion) and around 147 x 10^6m at it's nearest (perihelion).

      I think it's actually a bad average - they've just added to the two together and divided by two. Whereas with an elliptical orbit, the average will actually be lower than the midway value, I think. I.e. more of its time is going to be lower than the 'add both and divide by two' value than over it. The Earth does not move back and forth along a fixed line perpendicular the Sun. It moves in an elliptical path with the sun offset from the centre.

      But I don't have time to work it out properly right now so yes, average. ;)

      1. Alister Silver badge

        Thanks

      2. Scroticus Canis

        re: Is this an average? as I thought the Earth's orbit was elliptical?

        It's not the 'average' but the 'mean' by its current definition, similar but not the same as you have noted. The eccentricity of orbit isn't really that much at 3.34% off from circular.

        1. h4rm0ny

          Re: re: Is this an average? as I thought the Earth's orbit was elliptical?

          Yes, it's the mean of aphelion and perihelion. My point was that due to the elliptical orbit, that value is not the same as the mean or "average" distance from the Sun. It is a lazy approximation.

          To visualize this, imagine the orbit is a big train track in an ellipse. There's a point very near one end of the ellipse. Now the train spends a year going around the track and every day you note down the distance of the train from that point at one end. At the end of its journey you add up all the distances and divide by 365 (it's not a leap year). This value will not be the same as adding up the nearest and furthest point and dividing by two. And you can visualize why not just picturing that train's journey. Most days, it's not going to be at the near end.

          The real average distance is nearer the furthest distance than it is near the nearest distance. I expect better from El Reg. ;) Actually, Wikipedia commits the same grievous error.

          1. Wilseus
            Headmaster

            Re: re: Is this an average? as I thought the Earth's orbit was elliptical?

            Yes, it's the mean of aphelion and perihelion.

            The technical term for which is the semi-major axis.

            1. h4rm0ny
              Pint

              Re: re: Is this an average? as I thought the Earth's orbit was elliptical?

              >>The technical term for which is the semi-major axis.

              Cheers! Did not know that. :)

          2. John G Imrie Silver badge

            Re: re: Is this an average? as I thought the Earth's orbit was elliptical?

            Just one problem. As the earth approaches the Sun it speeds up. it slows down as it moves away. So it should take less time to go around the half of the ellipse close to the Sun that the other half.

            1. h4rm0ny

              Re: re: Is this an average? as I thought the Earth's orbit was elliptical?

              Which distorts it even further away from the mean of aphelion and perihelion, toward the longer distance! Come on El Reg. All we ask is a little integration!

  5. Vociferous

    Highly elliptical orbit

    Am I correct in guessing that the highly elliptical orbit suggests that they were NOT formed in their current orbits, and were kicked out by interaction with either Jupiter or Sol? Making them, I guess, "artillery shells" from the Early Heavy Bombardment which never impacted anything?

    A more exciting possibility would be that they are extrasolar objects captured by the sun.

  6. Paul Dx

    What else is out there ?

    An elliptical orbit needs 2 focii.

    One is the sun but what are at the other focii which cause the dwarf planets to come back towards us ?

    1. Vociferous

      Re: What else is out there ?

      Just the sun. Gravity decreases with the square of distance, but extends into infinity; these bodies never leave Sol's gravity well.

      1. Tom 38 Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: What else is out there ?

        But they do transition the heliopause each orbit - which is super cool.

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: What else is out there ?

      One is the sun but what are at the other focii which cause the dwarf planets to come back towards us ?

      Not sure whether cerious.

      Otherwise: Keplerian orbits or: A mathematical consequence of an 1/r² (newtonian) centripetal force.

    3. Martin Budden
      Boffin

      Re: What else is out there ? @Paul Dx

      It is true that the geometric shape called ellipse has two foci (note spelling).

      However, an elliptical orbit in astronomy (and they are all elliptical, there aren't any perfect circles) does not involve a gravitational pull from either foci: the two bodies each follow an elliptical orbit around a common barycenter, and this barycenter is the the point where one focus from each elliptical orbit are co-located. When one body is significantly larger and more massive than the other the barycentre may be inside (but not at the exact centre of) the larger body, giving the impression that the smaller one orbits around the larger while the larger one appears to just wobble slightly (e.g. Earth and Moon). Which means that the answer to your question "what else is out there" is: nothing.

  7. poohbear

    Would it be a bad idea to launch a probe at right angles to our solar system, and build up a birds-eye view? Or would that just take too long?

    1. AdamT

      It's a nice idea but I don't think our technology is up to it. Firstly you'd need an imaging system on it that could spot these objects from many AU away and secondly you'd need a pretty awesome propulsion system to get out of the earth's orbit around the sun and into a new perpendicular one.

      1. Vulch

        Previous out of the ecliptic missions (eg Ulysses) have used Jupiter to do the perpendicular bit. You aim your craft to go over one of Jupiters poles instead of round its equator. Cassini has used Titan in the same way to swap between orbits in the ring-plane of Sautrn and inclined orbits.

        1. squigbobble

          Slingshot around the Moon might do it

          If you're not bothered about the outer planets. I guess you'd wind up in a solar orbit of around 1AU mean distance but at such a close distance to the Sun you'd be able to use solar sails to adjust your orbit fairly effectively.

    2. Rustident Spaceniak
      Boffin

      Probe at right angles-

      It'd take about a Gigagram of fuel for a probe of maybe a hundred jubs or so. Then it'd travel outwards from the ecliptic for a generation, to be a bulk of AU's above the ecliptic. Now the whole solar system would be in its field of view - and it would only need a resolution of about 50 million lines (or, with a single exposure, 2.5 petapixels) to see Biden in exactly one pixel - which you'd have to find among all the other junk first. Yes, come to think of that, it would be a bad idea.

  8. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Happy

    A Red. Dwarf?

    Shum mistak shurley?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Devil

      Re: A Red. Dwarf?

      Shum mistak shurley?

      I thought it would have more sense naming it after Biden if it was a leprechaun planet.

      1. Vociferous

        Re: A Red. Dwarf?

        A leprechaun planet must clearly be named Kucinich (especially if it's got a larger, perhaps gaseous, reddish moon).

      2. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: A Red. Dwarf?

        It's officially called 2012 VP113, which the discovering team shortened to VP, and then eventually Biden...

        More likely, it is a dwarf planet, it should be named similarly to other dwarf planets. The best known of these is Pluto. They submitted the name "Goofy," which eventually led them to call it Biden.

        Sorry. It's Friday.

  9. David Harper 1

    You can't name astronimical objects after politicians

    I very much doubt that the astronomers will succeed in naming it Biden, because the International Astronomical Union has a policy which explicitly forbids naming of astronomical objects after politicians.

    1. Bunbury

      Re: You can't name astronimical objects after politicians

      Some are. For example 852 Wladilena named after Lenin or 5102 Benfranklin.

      There are IAU guidelines as to what to use wikipedia has an interesting article on it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astronomical_naming_conventions

      1. David Harper 1

        Re: You can't name astronimical objects after politicians

        The IAU rules (http://www.iau.org/public/themes/naming/) are quite clear about pandering to politicians:

        "The names of individuals or events principally known for political or military activities are unsuitable until 100 years after the death of the individual or the occurrence of the event."

        So Joe Biden can't have an asteroid named after him until he's been pushing up the daisies for a century.

  10. Mage Silver badge

    kilometres Fahrenheit

    You need Miles or Yards if you want Fahrenheit

  11. Semtex451 Silver badge

    I note with interest and alarm that the 2D diagram pictured shows the orbits of Sedna and Biden intersecting at two points.

    How long until they collide?

    AAAAAARGH

  12. Mtech25
    Trollface

    Personally

    I would have named it Nibiru

  13. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    What a name!

    They made a complete romney out of it this time.

  14. F111F
    Trollface

    Honor?

    It's officially called 2012 VP113, which the discovering team shortened to VP, and then eventually Biden to honour the current US vice president.

    Let's see, a dim object circling far the center...right you are then, carry on.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So does this mean Voyager 1 is back in the solar system... sometimes?

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Gone for ever - unless it gets help

      The sun's gravity will always pull Voyager 1 back, but the spacecraft will eventually get closer to other stars that will pull it away from the solar system. If it does not hit something first, Voyager 1 will wander around the galaxy and is very unlikely to come back here.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Gone for ever - unless it gets help

        Of course it comes back. It was on TV a few years ago -- Kirky-baby picks it up in the 23rd century and brings it back.

        I'm sure that's what they said.

        1. Gronk

          Re: Gone for ever - unless it gets help

          V'ger was Voyager 6. We're still waiting to get around to launching that one.

  16. Gordon 10 Silver badge

    Large Masses

    I thought that the likelyhood of a planet X out there had been well and truly ruled out by gravitational analyses? ie no noticable impacts on the orbits of the other planets to a ridiculously low margin of error?

    If so what did the rentaquote guy mean by Large planets?? Biden/Sedna sized or bigger?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: Large Masses

      AFAIK mars-massing balls in orbits at a serious angle to the ecliptic are well within the realm of possibilities.

      This is the idea of the Halo of "Oligarch" Planets (finally Planets with Russian names!)

  17. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

    Or...

    Might these (and other bits of Oort) been flung outward by the initial flick of old Sol's nuclear match? The shockwave of nuclear ignition should have been sufficient to blast lots of smaller bits a ways out without actually losing them, should it not? And then over a few billion years some of those tiny bits clump together to form larger ones, occasionally reaching dwarf planet* status.

    * because, after all, "That's no moon."©®™

  18. 100113.1537

    Thread?

    I am just a little worried about an eccentric orbiting red-coloured planet which passes through the Oort cloud entering our solar system. As far as I know, we haven't got our generic engineering skills up to producing telepathic, teleporting dragons yet...

  19. Rich 2

    Ooooo

    So, how long is its year then? I'm guessing, quite a long time.

    1. F111F

      Re: Ooooo

      Current guess is 4,590 years (not sure what that equates to in El Reg)

  20. Alistair Silver badge
    Pint

    Thread -> I want my brown

    Have an upvote on that one.

    (yup, we need a dragon icon)

  21. Mark 85 Silver badge

    I'm disappointed

    First venerable Pluto was demoted. Now an even smaller chunk of ice and rock is called a planet. Yes, it's name is good....both are rather insignificant but still... can we get Pluto back as a planet?

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: I'm disappointed

      Pluto is a "dwarf planet". This is a "dwarf planet". Eliding context fail.

  22. JCitizen
    Trollface

    Quite understandable why they used F...

    The Fahrenheit scale is more impressive with the large numbers. Even if you understand the science scale as a layman, you will not be impressed with a small number even if you like small peckers.

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