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Dwarf Planets

The Smallest bodies

 

Dwarf planets or a dwarf planet is a planetary mass object. This means that the object do not know if it is a planet or a satellite. This is something which is in between both; and this is a celestial body object which will be in the direct orbit path of the Sun. The dwarf planet is going to be big enough to have control from gravity.

The dwarf planet hasn’t cleared in fact, their orbit path from other objects which are out in space. To be honest, dwarf planets can be small, very small; the overall size can vary from one planet to another but there is still so much debate over dwarf planets and how, if at all, they should be categorized or who should determine how an object is named a dwarf planet.

It is thought that there are only a handful of dwarf planets that are actually discovered and named. Many astronomers believe that there have to be dozens, if not hundreds of other objects out there in space which are dwarf planets but haven’t been discovered yet.  However, there is still so much of the Solar System that hasn’t been explored yet, such as the Kuiper belt, which is very much unknown.

There is a huge estimate of maybe 200 different dwarf planets out there in the Solar System that hasn’t been discovered yet. It is thought when the entire region has been explored fully, that these planets will be found. Though, it can vary and there are thousands of objects which are scattered around the Solar System; and some of these are going to be dwarf planets and some will just be space junk orbiting the planets and Sun.

It is thought that most of the objects are going to be found outside the Kuiper belt.  In 2011, there were almost 390 objects that were discovered in space and most of them were candidate objects. Some were possible dwarf planets and some were certain dwarf planets; it can be very difficult with the classification of most dwarf planets. A lot of characteristics haven’t actually been explored when it comes to discovering or even naming dwarf planets.

Dwarf planets information
Ceres, a Dwarf Planet / Photo courtesy of NASA

History of the Dwarf Planets

It was back in 1801 when Ceres was first discovered; it was the first dwarf planet to be found in space. This was found somewhere between Jupiter and Mars; and for many years, these were actually considered to be planets. However, for around 50 years, there were dozens of planets out there and that was when there was a new word formed to name some of these – asteroids. These were considered to be the smaller objects out there.

It was 1930 when Pluto was discovered and for most, they believed it was the 9th planet in the Solar System but it was quite small. For almost 50 years, the planet was apparently bigger than Mercury but it turned out that the planet of Pluto was actually smaller than what Mercury and most other planets were. Pluto had the smallest diameter size but things changed and Pluto was no longer thought to be a planet.

Though, many people do not like the name, Dwarf Planet; many people think this isn’t the right term for some of the smaller planets out there. Some don’t like the name because it sort of means that they are planets; some don’t like to refer to the dwarf planets as such name and think planetoid would suit the name best. However, it does all vary because some are very comfortable in calling the objects dwarf planets.

Five Dwarf Planets

  1. Eris; this was discovered in 2005. On the 5th of January, the dwarf planet was found and it was originally called the 10th planet of the Solar System. However, it was in 2006 when it was officially known as a dwarf planet. Is a dwarf planet with its own moon of Dysnomia. This has been seen via the Hubble space telescope.
  2. Ceres was discovered first in 1801. This was almost 45 years before even Neptune was found and on January 1st, many believed this to be a planet.  However, it was only in 2006 when the planet was officially called a dwarf planet.
  3. Pluto was originally thought to be a planet and in 1930, on the 18th of February, Pluto was discovered.  It was a planet for 76 years but was recently put into the category as a dwarf planet which is still difficult for many to think of Pluto as a dwarf planet.
  4. Makemake was found on the 31st of March 2005 and was later categorized as a dwarf planet in 2008. Is a very small dwarf planet.
  5. Haumea was found in 2004, on the 28th of December; and it took 4 years in 2008 to be named as a dwarf planet. This has its own moons which are Namaka and Hi’aka.
Pluto Facts and information
Pluto, a Dwarf Planet / Photo courtesy of NASA

Pluto

For many years, Pluto was considered to be the ninth planet in the Solar System. Now, astronomers claimed that the planet wasn’t in fact a planet. Pluto was the smallest of all 9 planets and as a result, scientists said it couldn’t be considered a planet. This meant the planet was removed from the list of planets in the Solar System but it is a Dwarf Planet instead.

What all this means, is that Pluto isn’t in fact large enough to be considered a stable on its own planet of the Solar System such as Jupiter, Venus, Earth, Mars or any of the other planets out there. It might seem strange because for a long time, Pluto was considered to be a full planet but it’s all changed. It can be difficult to understand this but Pluto is very small, too small.

To be honest, there are many people who say that Pluto is still the ninth planet in the Solar System and that it has been a planet for so long that to them, it will remain a planet.  There are many fights and arguments started over how a dwarf planet is put into that certain type of category. Many top astronomers claim some of the best known dwarf planets are nothing more than large moons and others say that some deserve to be named as a full planet in some words.

Many believe that the size of the dwarf planet shouldn’t mean they aren’t put considered to be a planet of the Solar System and well established such as Mars and Earth. There will be more dwarf planets found in the future.

 

Gamma-Ray Burst

 

Flashes of gamma-rays which are associated with highly energetic explosions are known as gamma-ray bursts. These bursts have been noticed in distant galaxies and are the the brightest electromagnetic events known to man in the universe. These bursts can last anywhere from 10 milliseconds to a few minutes. Usually, a longer-lived “afterglow” follows the first burst, which then comes in longer wavelengths.

Early discovery of gamma-ray bursts

The discovery of gamma-rays happened almost by accident. The satellites which detected the rays had been built to detect nuclear weapons testing during the time of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Not sure what was causing the rays that were showing up on the satellites, the team filed the data away. After newer, more sophisticated satellites were launched, more of these rays continued to show up. After analysing the data, it became clear that the gamma-rays were not from nuclear testing or even from solar activity. The findings were published in 1973 in an article titled, “Observations of Gamma-Ray Bursts of Cosmic Origin”.

Even though astronomers and scientists have been studying gamma-rays rays since that time, they are still unable to accurately pinpoint the origin of the gamma-ray explosions. Some suggest they come from outside the Milky Way, but at this time, there is no way to be sure.

What causes gamma-ray bursts?

Because gamma-ray bursts happen so far away, it’s difficult for astronomers to be sure what exactly causes the bursts. Most are believed to be made up of a narrow beam of intense radiation which is released during a supernova. This is a high-mass star rotating at high speeds, which collapses and forms a black hole, neutron star, or quark star. While it is currently speculation, it’s possible that the entire crust of a star could shatter due to the development of a resonance between the core and crust. This is a result of huge tidal forces which stars experience in the seconds shortly before their collision.

Study of gamma-rays suggest that the blasts are not only extremely far away, but also very energetic and most likely immensely rare.

Classification of gamma-ray bursts

Unlike nova or supernova, which follow a structure of a bright burst of light which eventually fades out, the light curves of gamma-rays are unpredictable, diverse, and complex. There are no two gamma-ray bursts which are exactly the same. Some bursts have several high peaks, while others have a single peak only. Some show a very weak burst, followed by a very large burst after a short period of inactivity. Some gamma-ray bursts show highly chaotic and irrational profiles with no logical explanation.

The study of gamma-ray bursts does put them into 2 main categories: Long gamma-ray bursts and short gamma-ray bursts.

Long gamma-ray ray bursts exceed 2 seconds. Most gamma-ray bursts are in this category. A very long burst—over 2 ½ months long—was tracked, but none that long was seen since.

Short gamma-ray bursts are less than 2 seconds. It is unclear what causes these short bursts, but since 2005, the afterglow of these short bursts has been able to be studied, giving astronomers more detail on what these little bursts could be.

Effects of gamma-ray bursts

Right now, there is no danger to earth from gamma-ray bursts. They are much too far away to be of concern, though astronomers are speculating on the possibility of nearer stars colliding and the impact it could have on the earth’s atmosphere. Depending on how far or close it happens, the hypothetical effects would be devastating.

 

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Asteroid

Understanding an Asteroid

 

Asteroids are something that many are worried about.  Asteroids live in space and orbit the earth and solar system every single day and for the most, the asteroid is not going to be something to worry about. However, asteroids have been known to collide with earth and come into contact with populated areas. They can create utter devastation and no one knows what one single or even small asteroid could do to the world.

Asteroids are actually very small planets, minor planets. They can be known as dwarf planets or even small solar system bodies; they are not in a sense comets but they are still just as dangerous and unpredictable. They can be very small but they can also be very large which is very disturbing for any asteroid which might come into contact with the earth.

An asteroid can orbit the sun and even the earth for hundreds of years but not make any contact what so ever. However, any little shift by either the asteroid or solar system can send the asteroid onto a collision path to the earth. Even a nice from an object from space can send an asteroid towards the earth.  There are in fact millions of asteroids in space.

Most of the asteroids are very small and are really shattered remains from space objects.  Though, nine times out of ten, the asteroids orbiting space will stay in the asteroid belt which sits between Jupiter and Mars. This isn’t always the case which is why many asteroids are orbiting close to the earth.  All asteroids however are put into one of three categories.  These are;

  • M-Type
  • C-Type
  • S-Type
Asteroid Facts
Asteroid Facts and Information

The reason why these categories are named this way is because of carbon rich, stony and metallic compositions or materials found contained within the asteroids.  However, there might be a lot of asteroids orbiting the earth; there have not been many that have reached the earth’s surface with such force. Most are not visible to the naked eye and can only be seen via a telescope; however, 4 Vesta is an asteroid which can be seen via the naked eye.  This is because of its surface; it has a reflective surface.

Though, the asteroid can usually only been seen when the sky is very dark and it has to be of course positioned perfectly in the right location. There might be one or two smaller asteroids which can be seen by the naked eye when they are closely passing the earth though the time frame for this is very small indeed.

The First Asteroid

Asteroids have been around for thousands of years; however, it was only in 1801 when the first asteroid was discovered. Ceres was discovered by Giuseppe Piazzi but amazingly, at first, people believed Ceres was in fact a newly discovered planet. However, as the years went by, new technologies became available and Ceres was found to have no planetary disc which brought about of the word asteroid.

In 1801 and even decades later, not much was known about asteroids.  Strangely though, Ceres, the first asteroid, was only found by accident. Piazzi was not in fact looking for Ceres or asteroids, but he did find Ceres orbiting Jupiter and Mars. There were also others found such as 4 Vesta, 2 Pallas and 3 Juno in the 1800’s.  After 1807 when 4 Vesta was found, astronomers didn’t believe there were any more asteroids.

Though, it was some years before the next asteroid was found – 5 Astraea, and 6 Hebe came only a year and a few months later.  Once these asteroids were found however, more and more people became interested in star gazing. This led to an asteroid being discovered almost every year which is truly amazing because since 1845, there have been dozens, hundreds of asteroids being discovered.

The Pioneering Effect

Since 1891, new technology was discovered and used to detect asteroids.  This helped to detect asteroids and one man alone, Max Wolf, discovered 248 asteroids which is a huge record.  There are many unknown and undiscovered asteroids but in the 1800 and even 1900’s, many didn’t really think finding them was worth their time.  There is a huge amount of asteroids out there but very few are known; there are only a few thousands asteroids which have been identified, named and numbered.

In the late 1900’s and early 2000’s there was a sharp increase of wanting.  More and more people have been increasing their interest to identify asteroids orbiting the earth. Many people are worried that asteroids are going to collide with the earth; though the three asteroids named as the most important groups which are near the earth, are the Atens, the Apollo’s and the Amors.  All three groups are close to the earth and as a result of newer technology, have been monitored and checked constantly for years.

With the latest technology however, it has caused more and more worry about asteroids striking the earth especially those so close to it. However, with telescopes trained in most near earth asteroids, any slight change to them are being noted down carefully. With some of the latest technology also, it has meant over one hundred thousand asteroids have been found!

Earth and asteroid
Asteroid impact- Recreation

The Near Earth Asteroids

There are many NEA or near earth asteroids in show so close to the earth. Many have been peacefully orbiting the earth without causing any trouble whatsoever. There may be thousands near earth asteroids but many astronomers are not too worried about these.

The Various Sizes

Asteroids are not all going to be one size. There are going to be many asteroids which are very small but there are always others which are rather large. They greatly vary in size, one has been measured at one thousand kilometres and this is really amazing because they are so close to the earth.  To be honest, some of the larger asteroids are almost like a mini planet – they look like a normal planet because they look somewhat spherical but not all are too big. There is a huge majority which are very small and oddly shaped. Most smaller asteroids are fragments of once bigger asteroids which have formed into one.

Ceres, the first ever asteroid to be discovered is the biggest asteroid by far because it reaches an estimated 975 kilometres which is huge!  2 Pallas and 4 Vesta are second and third largest with them at around 500 kilometres.  However, some asteroids will not reach this mass, some will be very small in size but their weight is on a large scale.

There have been many scientists who have said that asteroids will collide with earth on many occasions.  This has yet to come but many have predicted that an asteroid the size of a football pitch would hit the earth and if that were to happen, it would cause devastation beyond belief.  However, there has become a huge interest in asteroid activity for this reason because more are worried about what could happen.

Asteroids can vary in many ways including size, weight and velocity.  Some might not be high impacting as what others are and many will not impact the earth either.

 

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