Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sedna is the name given by astronomers for the newest planet to be discovered orbiting the Sun. Although the details of the size of the planet are still being sought, it is thought to be about 1300 miles in diameter and could be of a similar size to Pluto. Given the Pluto is generally accepted to be a planet in its own right, Sedna becomes the tenth planet to be found orbiting the Sun.

NASA put out information about an announcement planned for Monday 15th March, to be given by Dr Michael Brown of Caltech. His team had recently discovered another large Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt object called 2004 DW, details of which were released in February. His team are using the recently launched Spitzer Space Telescope.

It is currently located in the Edgeworth-Kuiper belt some 13 billion km from the Sun or about 85 Astronomical Units, which is about three times more distant than Pluto. This places it in the Kuiper Gap, or Kuiper Cliff, an area unexpectedly devoid of predicted objects.

Perhaps it may help to explain the lack of companions out at this distance, although it is probably too small in practice to have swept the Belt clean by itself.

However, although it is located here, it may actually be an object from the distant Oort Cloud of comets. At the moment it is nearing perihelion, which has brought it into the Kuiper Belt. It is the most distant object to have been located orbiting the Sun. It appears to be following an elliptical orbit of about 10,500 years duration, taking out to a phenomenal 900 AU when at aphelion. Size-wise, it is too small to be a 'Nibiru' type-entity, irrespective of whether Nibiru turns out to be a terrestrial planet or a gas giant. Nor is this rocky, icy world anything approaching a 'Dark Star', even though it is red (presumably die the deposit of organic material on its surface). But it is a thrilling discovery, even so.

Dr David Whitehouse, writing for the BBC, states that 'astronomers at the Tenagra Observatory in Arizona were asked to provide positional information so that an orbit could be determined for Sedna'. It has also been imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope.

"Sedna, the Sea Spirit, exercises suzerainity over all animals which provide food for humans. In her residence at the bottom of the sea, from where she sends out the animals for hunting, she takes on the form of a woman. Even shamans fear her."

The new planet has been named 'Sedna', after the Canadian and Greenlandic Inuit Sea Goddess: