Tags: astronomy | planet | Biden

Scientists Nickname Planet-Like Object 'Biden'

Thursday, 27 Mar 2014 09:23 AM

By Courtney Coren

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It's official name is "2012 VP-113." But astronomers have nicknamed the newly discovered planet-like object on the edge of the solar system "Biden."

Smiling Joe, nick-named for Vice President Joe Biden, is 7 billion miles away from the sun and has its own celestial body, The Washington Post reported.  Biden is quite small at 280 miles in diameter, and scientists say it could be dwarf planet. Pluto, which was deemed a dwarf planet in 2006 has a diameter of 1,430 miles. By contrast, Earth is 7,900 miles across.

It has a temperature of minus 430 degrees Fahrenheit and is likely covered in ice.

The discovery was reported in the science journal Nature by Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington and Chad Trujillo of the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii.

It was spotted from a ground telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile in November 2012.

They say that "Biden" could help explain how the solar system was formed.

"It goes to show that there's something we don't know about our solar system, and it's something important," said Chad Trujillo of the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii.

"We're starting to get a taste of what's out beyond what we consider the edge."

It is in a region called the Oort Cloud, which is 30 to 50 astronomical units (AU) away from the Kuiper Belt where Pluto is located.

A similar planetary object was discovered in 2004 called Sedna, which is also in the Oort Cloud and is 76 AU from the Sun. Biden is 80 AU away. Sedna can stray 1,000 AU from the Sun, but Biden never goes more than 452 AU away.

The fact that it seems so bound by the Sun's gravitational pull is also a mystery, Sheppard told Nature.

Scientists say they are currently tracking six other objects in Oort that could also prove significant.

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