Astronomers announced today the discovery of the largest object in the solar system since Pluto was named the ninth planet in 1930. The object is half the size of Pluto, composed primarily of rock and ice, and circles the sun once every 288 years.
Named Quaoar (pronounced KWAH-o-ar), the object resides in the Kuiper belt, a region of the sky beyond the orbit of Pluto and about 4 billion miles (6.5 billion kilometers) from Earth. The Kuiper belt is chock full of remnants from the planet-formation era of the solar system. [...]
Varuna, a Kuiper belt object discovered in 2000, is 1,000 kilometers in diameter and Ixion, which was discovered in 2001, is thought to be of similar size to Quaoar and Varuna, but its diameter has yet to be accurately measured.
The discovery of Quaoar also adds support to the argument Pluto itself is a Kuiper belt object rather than a planet, according to the researchers. [...]
"A reasonable estimate is that there are about 900 planets. All but eight of them are out there [in the Kuiper belt]," he said.
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