“Planet X” and the Kuiper Belt’s Oddballs, “Santa” and “Easterbunny”

 "Instead of Pluto being a unique object that's difficult to understand (has frozen methane crust), we now see it as part of a family of objects (Xena, Sedna and Easterbunny that also have frozen methane crusts). We can try to understand the entire family, with Pluto being the middle sized member of the three. That's very exciting to us."

- Michael E. Brown, Astronomer  

Planet X, or Xena, or 2003 UB313, illustrated as red in color because it has a surface  of frozen methane similar to Pluto, "Easterbunny," and Sedna. Nine billion miles from the sun,  Xena is 20 to 30 percent larger than Pluto. Illustration by Cal Tech.
Planet X, or Xena, or 2003 UB313, illustrated as red in color because it has a surface of frozen methane similar to Pluto, "Easterbunny," and Sedna. Nine billion miles from the sun, Xena is 20 to 30 percent larger than Pluto. Illustration by Cal Tech.

September 15, 2005  Pasadena, California - A couple of months ago in late July, astronomer Michael Brown and his colleagues at the California Institute of Technology, announced their discovery of "Planet X." It's a big chunk of rock and ice nine billion miles from the sun. It's actually bigger than Pluto - and far beyond Pluto in what is known as the Kuiper Belt that circles our solar system. Now, almost two months later, the International Astronomical Union still has not decided if the exciting discovery should be classified a planet or what it's official name should be.

 

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