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WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE?
Magpie is a former journalist, attempted historian [No, you can't ask how her thesis is going], and full-time corvid of the lesbian persuasion. She keeps herself in birdseed by writing those bad computer manuals that you toss out without bothering to read them. She also blogs too much when she's not on deadline, both here and at Pacific Views.

Magpie roosts in Portland, Oregon, where she annoys her housemates (as well as her cats Medea, Whiskers, and Jane Doe) by attempting to play Irish music on the fiddle and concertina.

If you like, you can send Magpie an email!



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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Xena is very bright.

But it turns out that the solar system's 'tenth planet' is only slightly bigger than Pluto. New observations from the Hubble telescope show that Xena is only 5% larger than Pluto, instead of 25% to 30% larger than earlier thought.


Xena and Gabrielle

Artist's conception of Xena [officially Kuiper Belt object 2003 UB313] and its moon 'Gabrielle.'
[Image: A. Schaller/STScI/NASA/ESA


The fact that Xena is smaller than thought means it must reflect about 86% of the light that falls on it — making it about as bright as fresh snow and brighter than every other solar system body except Saturn's moon Enceladus. Spectral observations suggest its surface is covered with frozen methane, like Pluto.

But unlike Pluto, which is mottled by both bright and dark splotches, Xena is so uniformly bright that it is impossible to tell how fast it is rotating. "When we made the size measurement, we were thoroughly shocked," Brown told New Scientist. "Such a high albedo is simply unprecedented other than the very odd Enceladus."

So why is Xena so bright? The best guesses now are either that Xena's very eccentric orbit causes its atmosphere to thaw and re-freeze, thus replenishing its highly reflective methane surface, or methane may be venting from Xena's interior. But both theories are mostly speculation at this point.

There's lots more new info about Xena in this article at New Scientist Space.

| | Posted by Magpie at 1:54 PM | Get permalink




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