Astronomers find smaller Neptunian rocks

Aug 10, 2006

A Taiwan-led study suggests smaller frozen chunks of rock in the outer reaches of the Solar System can be spotted when they obscure starlight.

Nearly 1,000 trans-neptunian objects, or TNOs -- found beyond the orbit of the planet Neptune -- have been seen with conventional telescopes.

The size distribution of such frosty remnants gives astronomers important clues about the formation of the Solar System. But direct observation is only possible for TNOs larger than a few tens of miles across.

Now, astronomer Hsiang-Kuang Chang and colleagues at National Tsing Hua University in Hsinchu, Taiwan, say they've identified 58 TNOs smaller than about 325 feet across, by looking at X-rays being emitted from the star Scorpius X-1.

The scientists say as the TNOs move, they block the line of sight of NASA's orbiting telescope, the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer, for a few milliseconds. That's long enough to identify the objects and estimate their size, the astronomers say.

The research appears in this week's issue of the journal Nature.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

Explore further: Study explains why galaxies don't churn out as many stars as they should

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Evolving robot brains

10 hours ago

Researchers are using the principles of Darwinian evolution to develop robot brains that can navigate mazes, identify and catch falling objects, and work as a group to determine in which order they should ...

Facebook fends off telecom firms' complaints

10 hours ago

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg fended off complaints on Monday that the hugely popular social network was getting a free ride out of telecom operators who host its service on smartphones.

Scientists find clues to cancer drug failure

10 hours ago

Cancer patients fear the possibility that one day their cells might start rendering many different chemotherapy regimens ineffective. This phenomenon, called multidrug resistance, leads to tumors that defy ...

Glass coating improves battery performance

11 hours ago

Lithium-sulfur batteries have been a hot topic in battery research because of their ability to produce up to 10 times more energy than conventional batteries, which means they hold great promise for applications ...

Recommended for you

Planet 'reared' by four parent stars

1 hour ago

Growing up as a planet with more than one parent star has its challenges. Though the planets in our solar system circle just one star—our sun—other more distant planets, called exoplanets, can be reared ...

Far from home: Wayward cluster is both tiny and distant

Mar 03, 2015

Like the lost little puppy that wanders too far from home, astronomers have found an unusually small and distant group of stars that seems oddly out of place. The cluster, made of only a handful of stars, ...

An old-looking galaxy in a young universe

Mar 02, 2015

A team of astronomers, led by Darach Watson, from the University of Copenhagen used the Very Large Telescope's X-shooter instrument along with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to observe ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.