October 7, 2002
11:11 AM   Subscribe

Most of us were expecting that astronomers would discover a tenth planet and name it Persephone. A mostly harmless author preferred Rupert. One clique of New Age doomsayers claims that it is "Nibiru," or "Planet X,", which will come in 2003 to wreak havoc and usher in a new era under (I kid you not) our new alien overlords. Well, hang it all. Planet #9.5 has been discovered, and they called it "Quaoar." And I think Pluto is pissed.
posted by brownpau (41 comments total)
I [heart] the <alt> tags!
posted by goethean at 11:15 AM on October 7, 2002

I'd like to buy some vowels, Pat.
posted by Stan Chin at 11:17 AM on October 7, 2002

Oh...upon looking at the source code it's the <TITLE> attribute of the <A> tag. So sorry.
posted by goethean at 11:18 AM on October 7, 2002

Pluto isn't a planet anymore anyway, right?
posted by agregoli at 11:24 AM on October 7, 2002

I can't find any current links - there was some controversy about this, but as far as I can tell, Pluto is still a planet.
posted by agregoli at 11:27 AM on October 7, 2002

agregoli: Pluto isn't a planet anymore anyway, right?

It depends on who you ask.

The International Astronomical Union has not officially changed Pluto's status. Thus, it is still officially a planet.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:27 AM on October 7, 2002

A Google for Pluto not a planet turns up several stories on that. The discovery of Quaoar <echo>(wa-waar! wa-waar!)</echo> may be what finally demotes Pluto to the "Kuiper belt object" category for all time. But I hope not.
posted by brownpau at 11:32 AM on October 7, 2002

Zecharia Sitchen, the world reknowned scholar--mostly on Coast to Coast with Art Bell, as I recall...
posted by y2karl at 11:37 AM on October 7, 2002

It depends on who you ask.

Why not just ask Pluto itself?

So I like linking to the Brunching Shuttlecocks. I just can't help it, okay? At least I don't link them on the front page.
posted by yhbc at 11:38 AM on October 7, 2002

The Quaoar FAQ, by the guys who discovered the thing.
posted by brownpau at 11:39 AM on October 7, 2002

Where are we going?
Planet 9.5!
Real soon!
posted by moss at 11:44 AM on October 7, 2002

"I've been coming to this circle for about five years and measuring it. The diameter and the circumference are constantly changing, but the radius stays the same. Which brings me to the number five. There are five letters in the word "Blaine." Now, if you mix up the letters in the word "Blaine," mix 'em around, eventually you'll come up with Nebali. Nebali. The name of a planet in a galaxy way, way, way... way far away. And another thing. Once you go into that circle, the weather never changes. It is always 67 degrees with a 40% chance of rain."
posted by UKnowForKids at 11:46 AM on October 7, 2002

Great. Now I've got "Nothing Ever Happens on Mars" stuck in my head. Stick it, Uknow.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 11:50 AM on October 7, 2002

they called it "Quaoar."
posted by quonsar at 11:52 AM on October 7, 2002

(just because nobody's said it yet and it's his very first time to:)

I, for one, welcome our new Quaoarian overlords.

(there, that's over with, carry on)
posted by wanderingmind at 11:59 AM on October 7, 2002

I'm with moss, it's time for a good road trip. I wonder what Quaoarian chicks look like. And do they dig middle-aged (acck!), chubby white guys from NJ?
posted by billsaysthis at 12:05 PM on October 7, 2002

What a nice use of the alt tags. Nobody hates you.

Metafilter: We don't hate anybody.

Seriously, great link. But the real question of course is: can we now use Quaoar in proper-name Scrabble?
posted by redshoes3 at 12:17 PM on October 7, 2002

In other Solar System news, the presence of water may be more common than previously believed.
posted by homunculus at 12:21 PM on October 7, 2002

Little do the astronomers know, in Arabic "Quaoar" sounds doubly scatological. If you pronounce it "KWAH-o-wahr" it sounds like a word for urination and if you pronounce it "kwah-O-wahr" it sound just like the Arabic for "your anus."
posted by straight at 12:28 PM on October 7, 2002

'"It's pretty clear, if we discovered Pluto today, knowing what we know about other objects in the Kuiper Belt, we wouldn't even consider it a planet," said Brown. Quaoar is half Pluto's size....'
Does it matter? What [not who] defines a planet?

1. I guess it orbits a star.
2. Has a regular orbital path.
posted by dash_slot- at 12:34 PM on October 7, 2002

i love science threads, but i always miss them.
posted by folktrash at 12:36 PM on October 7, 2002

Offtopic: I saw "Planet X" and cringed, thinking of Derek Sherinian. *shows himself the door*
posted by Dark Messiah at 12:55 PM on October 7, 2002

dash: I'm thinking that Brown is alluding to the fuzzy dividing line that astronomers make between objects such as Jupiter and Mars and objects such as Ceres and Vesta. Although it would seem that there is a fairly obvious size difference between these types of objects, the fact that some bodies considered planets are only 2300km across makes the line pretty darn fuzzy.
posted by bshort at 1:16 PM on October 7, 2002

"A reasonable estimate is that there are about 900 planets. All but eight of them are out there [in the Kuiper belt],"

Pluto also orbits the sun outside the orbital plane of all the other planets, like Kuiper belt objects.

Mix this in here.

Pluto "crossed" Neptune's orbit on January 21, 1979, and temporarily became the 8th planet from the sun. It will cross Neptune's orbit again on Feb. 11, 1999 to resume its place as the ninth planet from the sun for the next 228 years.

Then would 7 planets not be in the Kuiper belt, Neptune being in the Kuiper belt too?

PS, Quosoar circles the sun once in 288 years, man I would die before being able to walk. Also wonder if Quosoar's 288years for one orbit and 228 years for Neptune and Pluto to switch distance from the sun have some bearing in all this.
posted by thomcatspike at 1:36 PM on October 7, 2002

Quaoar needs to be studied so we can determine what nutrients it has that might be extracted for our personal use.
posted by adamv at 1:51 PM on October 7, 2002

I nominate the alt tag as the new MeFi confessional.
posted by jazzkat11 at 2:16 PM on October 7, 2002

Funny point jazzkat11. I've been wondering how this wonderful tag might be used or abused. It's so easy to do, once you know the trick, that I'm imagining great gouts of words coming soon hidden in those tags, and you couldn't even be accused of stealing too much front page space. brounpau's blog is funny, refresh the page a couple of times to see why.
posted by gametone at 3:03 PM on October 7, 2002

To clarify, though it may be buried in one of those articles, lots of people have believed for a long time that Pluto didn't "deserve" to be labeled a planet -- but out of deference to the still-living Clyde Tombaugh, that argument was held back. Two things happened in the 1990s: first, Tombaugh died; and second, the once-speculative Trans-Neptunian Objects came to light, first singly, by now in droves. It's now recognized that Pluto has much more in common with these TNOs (size, composition, orbit, plane) than with any of the outer planets.

For the IAU, the question is more of a political one than a scientific one. There is no formal definition of a planet that would include the other eight but not Pluto or the other larger asteroids (many of which are more or less round, such as Ceres ... and Quaoar is actually larger than Ceres, though Varuna was not). The only clear thing which distinguishes planets from moons is the primary object which they orbit. The IAU recognizes that any such definitional limit would be extremely arbitrary, and are content to permit the continued identification of Pluto as a planet for historical inertial reasons. Put it this way: nothing has conclusively argued that Pluto is not a planet.

thomcat: Kuiper Belt is a less formal term than Trans-Neptunian Object, but both roughly refer to objects farther than 30 AU from the Sun. Asteroids within Neptune's orbit retain the older term for them, Centaurs.

Though the Pluto-Kuiper Express mission was cancelled two years ago, another spacecraft proposal is on the table called New Horizons. It is very likely that its prospects have been improved by this discovery.

jazzkat: As indicated, it is not the alt tag, which only works with images.
posted by dhartung at 3:07 PM on October 7, 2002

I'm with moss, it's time for a good road trip. I wonder what Quaoarian chicks look like. And do they dig middle-aged (acck!), chubby white guys from NJ?

billsaysthis: NJ, you say! Any chance you're from...Grovers Mill?! And that your (non-MeFi) "real" first name is John? While we're chatting, do you have any good human recipes to share with our new Quaoarian friends?
posted by PennyPrune at 3:12 PM on October 7, 2002

Quaoar, which was named after the creation force of the Tongva tribe who were the original inhabitants of the Los Angeles basin

I, for one, am looking forward to eating the tasty new sensation, Quaoar Quispy Flakes; drinking the diabolical new mixed drink, Quaoar Quocktail at the Viper Room; and donning my soft fluffy jammies made of the new miracle fiber, Quaoar-Quotten Blend.

I'm not even going to bother running spell check on this!
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:15 PM on October 7, 2002

Quaoar? Is this where Quisp is from?

I hope Pluto doesn't feel like it's getting demoted, just, um, reassigned. After all, describing the Solar System as made up of 8 major planets, Pluto, the largest TNO, traditionally considered a planet and 800+ trans-Neptunian planetoids is more accurate and acknowledges that the clear line between planetary and quasi-planetary is only semantic.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:30 PM on October 7, 2002

Am I going senile or wasn't there a planet called Charon at one time? What happened with that? It fall into the sun or something? Leave our solar system for Alpha Centauri? Turn out to be a smudge of twinkie cream on some astronomer's telescopic lense?
posted by ZachsMind at 8:10 AM on October 8, 2002

Wow! Thanks for this post, it came just at the right time. My daughter's 6th grade class just began studying the solar system and they get extra credit for any new solar system related news they bring to class. Woo. I knew this place was good for something besides stress relief, boredom relief and a good chuckle now and then.
posted by Plunge at 9:03 AM on October 8, 2002

Charon is Pluto's moon.
posted by Plunge at 9:05 AM on October 8, 2002

Right, Charon is considered Pluto's moon, but I think it's not that much smaller, and the two are locked into an orbit together - so it's as fair to say pluto orbits charon as that charon orbits pluto; they face each other continually.
posted by mdn at 9:35 AM on October 8, 2002

Okay, it looks like charon is about half the size of pluto. But they are "tidally locked."
posted by mdn at 9:37 AM on October 8, 2002

Quaoar must have been named by a Scrabble player.

I still prefer "Iquoikoglyxozica" though.
posted by Foosnark at 9:41 AM on October 8, 2002

Now we know where Quorn comes from.
posted by wanderingmind at 9:56 AM on October 8, 2002

linda mccartney may have been sending messages from our Quaoarian, erm, friends. Good job they edited her vocals (scroll down) out when wings played live. Sorry no Quaodio link.
posted by asok at 6:05 PM on October 8, 2002

dhartung, thanks for the follow up of info.

I have to say thanks, **brownpau** for giving me a jump on the local news. They did a nice mis- informed blip last night yet I was totally able to enjoy the photo's because I could ignore the goof of a commentary and understand it completely.

I've notice of late that not keeping up to date with space, I seem spacey to the youngsters. Especially if I go by what I was taught compared to today's facts. I'm glad that space is still a frontier to be explored. Thanks for keeping me updated.
posted by thomcatspike at 1:27 PM on October 9, 2002

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