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Astronomers discover giant Kuiper Belt object
Posted: Tue, Oct 8, 2002, 7:50 AM ET (1150 GMT)
Quaoar illustration (NASA and G. Bacon (STScI)) Two Caltech astronomers announced Monday that they have discovered the largest Kuiper Belt object found to date, an icy body half the size of the planet Pluto. The object, officially designated 2002 LM60 but unofficially named Quaoar, was discovered in mid-2002 using a telescope at Palomar Observatory. Those observations, as well as older images, showed that the object was in a distant, near-circular orbit 6.5 billion kilometers from the Sun. Later Hubble Space Telescope observations showed that Quaoar is 1,300 km in diameter, larger than any other KBO discovered to date and more than half the diameter of Pluto, 2,300 km across. Caltech astronomers Mike Brown and Chad Trujillo speculate that other, larger KBO objects have yet to be discovered, raising questions about Pluto's status as a planet. Quaoar is named after a creation god of the Tongva tribe of native Americans who once lived in the Los Angeles area.
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