Solar system bodies more distant than Pluto have been found before, but 2003UB313 is the first that is almost certainly bigger, and so can be classified as a planet (insofar as Pluto can). The new planet’s orbit is even more elliptical than Pluto’s — it’s distance to the sun varies between 38-97 AU over it’s 560 year period, and it’s orbital plane is inclined at 45 degrees to the plane of the other planets. A name has been submitted to the IAU and is currently awaiting acceptance.
See also Spaceflight Now’s coverage; Caltech press release; and discoverer Mike Brown’s excellent explanatory page
History’s first (and last – only one would be necessary) Time Traveler Convention takes (took) place Saturday May 7, 2005, 10:00pm at MIT (42:21:36.025°N, 71:05:16.332°W). If you’re temporally transport-challenged, you might be out of luck, since they’ve already reached capacity. Presumably they’ll be nice enough to admit any actual time travelers from the future or distant past.
The last three years were all in the top four hottest ever recorded, according to remote sensing data from NASA. 1998 is number 1 since accurate records have been available (beginning around 1890), but the bad news is that 2005 could top even that. Could be really bad news for the Great Barrier Reef, which is under threat of bleaching this (southern) summer. Makes you wonder whether the reef will even be around in 20 years time…
An incredible success for the Cassini-Huygens mission, but it very nearly didn’t happen due to a faulty radio receiver on Cassini. And in case you’re wondering, here’s how (some) Dutch pronounce Huygens (it’s not hoi-gens) courtesy Paul Horowitz
I just read a nice piece by Chris Mooney on media coverage of science issues, particularly related to climate change. He talks about how the press tend to give undeserved airtime to proponents of viewpoints which have been rejected by the scientific community, in an effort to appear balanced. What’s the solution? Pay more attention to the consensus view of experts in the field, and the accumulated literature.
Goran asked me about news reports that SETI had picked up an alien message. I found this
article at New Scientist. It seems they have a signal – SHGb02+14a – which appears to be real, in the sense that it’s not just noise or interference, but at the moment there is no indication that it comes from aliens. Although, it doesn’t match the characteristics of any known natural phenomena. They will likely continue to observe it and hopefully work out what’s going on – stay tuned!