Giant world detected in deep space
Posted: Tuesday, July 3, 2001
Astronomers have found one of the largest objects ever detected orbiting the Sun. It was seen in a deep space survey looking for bodies circling our star out near Pluto, the most distant planet. Only planets are larger than this new object, dubbed 2001 KX76.
The icy, reddish world is over a thousand kilometres across and astronomers say there may be even larger objects, bigger than planet Pluto itself, awaiting discovery.
"What we have seen may be only the tip of the iceberg," co-discoverer Dr Lawrence Wasserman said.
The world - it is big enough to be called a world - has a typical reddish hue and is probably covered in ice. It orbits the Sun beyond Neptune in the so-called Kuiper Belt - a region that extends far beyond the known planets.
Since 1992, over 400 Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) have been detected. Their discovery has revolutionised our view of the distant reaches of our Solar System. It is the sheer size of 2001 KX76 that is exciting astronomers.
"When we spotted it, we just wrote 'wow' on the image," Lawrence Wasserman, of the Lowell Observatory in Arizona, US, said. "We knew right away it was a big one." More
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