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Jan 11

New Telescope Exploring Solar System "Outback"

Source: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CFA)

In the outer reaches of our solar system lies a mysterious region far more remote and difficult to explore than the Australian outback. It remains the only part of our solar system not visited by spacecraft. Called the Kuiper Belt, this area beyond Neptune is home to the dwarf planets Pluto, Eris, Makemake, and Haumea. It also harbors thousands of smaller objects that form a second, icy asteroid belt (or more appropriately, comet belt). In this realm of perpetual twilight, the distant sun looks like just another bright star.

A new telescope has begun to virtually explore the solar system outback, and already is scoring discoveries. The Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) PS1 telescope has found ten Kuiper Belt residents. Based on their brightnesses, the newfound objects range in size from 180 to 300 miles (300 to 500 km).(read more)

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