2003 UB313 on astro-ph

Astronomers publish technical papers in a slew of astronomical journals. Unless you have access to a university library, you are unlikely to read many - if any - of them and even then you will be reading things that are usually several months behind. A number of years ago, the arXive (pronounced 'archive') was set up as a free on-line library of physics, maths and computer science papers. The astronomy section is named astro-ph and it can be searched, has RSS feeds and now even allows limited trackbacks.

Spectra for 2003 UB313
A comparison of the spectra of 2003 UB313 and Pluto. Click for full-res (astro-ph paper). CREDIT: M.E. Brown, C.A. Trujillo, D.L. Rabinowitz
Anyway, I hadn't yet got around to reading the latest papers today, so Megan beat me to the discovery paper for 2003 UB313. The paper has been submitted to Astrophysical Journal Letters and details some of the scientific measurements. It turns out that Mike Brown et al. have found pre-discovery images back to 1989 and so have been able to constrain the orbit very well. They've worked out that it is currently near aphelion and will reach perihelion (38.2 AU) in the year 2257.

Spectral observations (see image) show that it resembles Pluto, but has some differences. The authors think that the nitrogen and methane may be segregated in the atmosphere of 2003 UB313 as it is so cold. As it moves closer to the Sun, the methane could become a bit more volatile and mix with the nitrogen making it look a bit more like Pluto. Time, and more observations, will tell. Read the paper for more details.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Wednesday 31st Aug 2005 (14:36 UTC) | Permalink
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