Space Archaeology. Recent discoveries in the solar system

22.03.2004

22.03.2004


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Sergei LESKOV

The U.S. space telescope Spitzer on the outskirts of the solar system discovered a new planet, which is called by the name of Sedna Inuit goddess of the ocean. Astronomers estimate that the celestial Sedna is more than an asteroid, but less than all of the known world, and has a diameter of at least 2000 km. The ninth planet in the solar system Pluto is 2250 km in diameter. Sedna makes a complete revolution around the sun for 10,000 years in a highly elliptical orbit. The sensational discovery is confirmed by observing both the Space Telescope — the old-timer "Hubble", which operates in orbit for 11 years. According to preliminary estimates, Sedna is from Earth at a distance of about 10 billion kilometers, that is 70 times more than the sun.

This discovery Spitzer Space Telescope have helped a number of ground-based observatories in Spain, Chile and the United States. Sedna orbits the Sun in a highly elliptical orbit. At present, the object is at a distance of about 13 billion kilometers from the center of the solar system, and at the farthest point of the orbit of the planetoid distance from the Sun reaches the unholy amount — 130 billion kilometers. One revolution around the Sun makes Sedna for 10,500 Earth years. By the size of Sedna occupies an intermediate position between Pluto and previously discovered a giant asteroid Quaoar.

Before that, the last planet of the solar system was Pluto, discovered in 1930. Since then, the latest astronomical facilities in the vicinity of our star was found a great variety of different objects, but Sedna — the largest of them. Many scientists all these decades, said that beyond the orbit of Pluto should be a planet, which was called Transpluto. And predictions have come true. As they come true for the other predicted planets — Uranus, Neptune, Pluto itself. It turns out that discoveries in astronomy can be performed in theory — "the tip of the pen."

Sedna's orbit is forced to recall the Oort cloud — a cluster of asteroids with a highly elliptical orbit. It is from this zone are the origin of many comets. According to scientists the Oort cloud surrounds the Sun and extends up to half the distance between the Sun and the Alpha Centauri — the closest star system to the Sun. But Sedna is about 10 times closer to Earth than the Oort belt.

Sedna has a reddish tinge. Sedna is redder in the firmament only Mars. There is also indirect evidence of the satellite of Sedna, but found its modern means of observation is not possible. Nearest '72 Sedna will be closer to the Earth, which will allow to better understand this unusual object. However, not all astronomers still recognize the status of the world, even beyond Pluto, not to mention the Sedna.

Sedna saw a team of scientists led by Dr. Michael Brown of the California Institute of Technology celebrated. As expected, the new planet that lives in the space field, which is called the Kuiper belt. Belt is named after the American astronomer Gerard Kuiper, who almost half a century ago, predicted the existence of minor planets beyond the orbit of Neptune. In this zone there are hundreds of space objects — small and large. Astronomers believe that in the Kuiper belt to be discovered and other interesting celestial bodies. The vast majority of these objects are space debris from the ice and stone. But Sedna as assure its discoverers — a real planet. Hence, the Kuiper belt conceals many mysteries.

But now we can assume that after the discovery of Sedna with a bang inflame debate about what the heavenly body can be considered full-fledged planet. That is after all, Pluto is not completely clear. Some astronomers believe it is not a planet, but just one of the large space objects that littered the outskirts of the solar system. Some of these stones is just half of Pluto. In favor of that Pluto and Sedna is a planet, says that they have a stable orbit, in contrast to many other objects in the Kuiper belt.

Pluto is the only planet in the solar system, which never approached the spacecraft. But already agreed to fund a NASA flight automatic probe to Pluto. The cost of the expedition — about $ 300 million of the money already allocated in 2003. Another 200 million will need to analyze the data. Construction of the interplanetary station will begin in summer 2004, the launch is scheduled for 2006, but in 2015 alone — and that thanks to the ballistic acceleration in the orbit of Jupiter — the device is "New Horizons" will overcome 6,000,000,000 km and reaches the ninth planet, where he will study not only the Pluto, but its moon Charon. Lenses stations will be able to consider the size of Pluto's moons just 1 km away. Resolution of the famous telescope "Hubble" for these planets — 500 km. Cruising speed machine weighing 416 kg — 70,000 km / sec, 2 times higher than the escape velocity. The main objectives of the expedition are mapping the invisible hand of Pluto and Charon, map geological areas, determining the composition of the atmosphere of Pluto and the speed of the hydrodynamic leak. Most of the travel of the machine will be in the mode of preservation, and the Earth will be heard only on the location of the signals. Once a year, for six weeks the device will wake up to check all systems and then again sink into lethargy. Pluto closer to the machine at a distance of several thousand miles (the distance from the Earth to the Moon — 400,000 km). Expected life of work in the vicinity of Pluto and the Kuiper Belt — 5 years.

Doubts that the moment chosen for the trip is not too successful, but most scientists still believe that it is important to hurry up with the expedition to this remote world. The fact that Pluto has passed closest to the Sun, part of the way in a highly eccentric orbit, and in 2020 was doomed to inevitable freezing at temperatures close to absolute zero. Pluto is now running away from the sun, the temperature falls on it, the atmosphere soon turns into a kind of snow. Pluto is undergoing dramatic moment in his biography, as compared to other planets where life is similar to the man in the street a quiet sleep.

Sedna should be modest. The largest discovery in recent years of the solar system — the asteroid belt between the orbits of Neptune and Pluto, which has more than 300 small planets. The Kuiper Belt redefined astronomers about the history of the solar system. According to the generally accepted hypothesis of the asteroid belt on the edge of the solar system contains protosubstance from which formed the Sun and the largest planet. However, this belt was not the planet and has not undergone major changes during the lifetime of the solar system. And because the study Pluto and the Kuiper Belt is like Schliemann's excavations at ancient Troy — a real space archeology.

At Pluto's moon Charon is that the diameter, which in itself is strange, only half of his heavenly suzerain. In our solar system, the size of the satellite is only a percentage of the diameter of the parent planets. How could form a double planet system Pluto-Charon? The hypotheses put forward bold — some might shed some light on the mysterious birth of our moon. Fuel to the fire of curiosity adds that Pluto and Charon are not twins, but the complete opposite. This is the case of the atmosphere, the reflectivity, the presence of the polar caps. What's so cool twists of evolution scattered fates of neighboring planets? No one knows.

In general, on the outskirts of the solar system, as in any overly vast empire, what the hell is going on. Pluto is most similar to Neptune's largest moon Triton. Perhaps he, too, was a satellite of Neptune, but some celestial cataclysm tore him from the clutches of the parent planet. Sometimes Pluto and Neptune, as if amused, and not giving each other completely freeze in outer cellar, changing places. From 1979 to 1999, Neptune, the eighth planet in the solar system, was further from the Sun than Pluto, the ninth planet. Such winding paths knows no track orienteering. Astronomers are perplexed about the causes of this shuffling. Now headache effort: there is reason to believe that Sedna is swapped with Pluto.

Another mystery Pluto — it rarefied atmosphere, which consists of methane, carbon monoxide and nitrogen. As the planet approaches the Sun, the atmosphere evaporates, burst geysers shoot giant, unprecedented in the world of gas and ice fountains. On any other planet today does not meet the so-called hydrodynamic leakage atmosphere into space, but it is this phenomenon could have caused the loss of hydrogen on the early Earth, making it suitable for the present life forms. The study of this phenomenon may provide invaluable information about the nature of the planet's atmosphere.

On many planets scientists have searched for organic matter and water, but found them in a concentration only on the edge. There is reason to believe that the other bodies in the Kuiper Belt, including Sedna, conceal large amounts of ice and organics. At the dawn of the solar system objects like wandering in its inner regions, providing, according to the most popular hypothesis, young earth raw material for the origin of life …

Letter of reference

Solar system
Mercury: diameter — 4880 km, the average distance from the sun — 58 million miles.
Venus: 12 140 km, 108 million km.
Plot: 12 756 km, 150 million km.
Mars: 6787 km and 228 million km.
Jupiter: 142,800 km, 778 million km.
Saturn: 120,660 km, 1.4 billion km.
Uranus: 51,118 km, 2.9 billion kilometers.
Neptune: 49,528 km, 4.5 billion km.
Pluto is 2300 km, 5.9 billion km.

19.03.2004

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