A third group maintained that Pluto should lose its planetary status and be demoted to the rank of Kuiper Belt object
Instead of trying to directly observe a planet, researchers are looking for more Kuiper belt objects
, whose orbits might bear the gravitational signature of something unseen.
Discoveries by students in the HOU program include two students from Oil City High School in Pennsylvania who discovered the first light of the supernova SN1994l when observing M51 (The Whirlpool Galaxy) in 1994, and a group of a Massachusetts high school students that found a new Kuiper Belt Object
orbiting the sun in 1998.
Haumea is already the only Kuiper Belt object
known to be part of a collisional family--other chunks, besides the moons, are known to have been created when a large impactor, perhaps 500 kilometers in diameter, struck the once-larger dwarf planet in the distant past, Brown says.
That Kuiper belt object
now is located 58 AU from the sun, or nearly twice as far from the sun as Neptune is.
It will fly by the Pluto-Charon system in July 2015, then target another Kuiper Belt object
His preferred solution would be to give Pluto "special dual citizenship" as both a Kuiper Belt object
and a planet, in recognition of its special cultural status.
Finding that the largest known Kuiper Belt object
is a virtual twin to Pluto may only further complicate the debate about whether to categorize the large icy worlds that populate the belt as planets.
Many astronomers now assert that Pluto is itself a Kuiper belt object
that got knocked into a highly inclined elliptical orbit that crosses the orbit of Neptune (SN: 6/9/01, p.
According to a common theory, each moon was created when an interloping body smashed into a large Kuiper belt object
David Jewitt and Herve Aussel of the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, with Aaron Evans of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, monitored a recently discovered Kuiper belt object
, known as (20000) Varuna.
Last year, Alan Fitzsimmons of Queen's University of Belfast, Northern Ireland, and his colleagues used the Hubble Space Telescope to take images of the Kuiper belt object
1994TB, which currently lies some 30 times farther from the sun than Earth does.