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New data confirms Kuiper Belt object is largest minor planet
Posted: Fri, Aug 24, 2001, 11:28 AM ET (1528 GMT)
Prediscovery image of 2001 KX76 (ESO) European astronomers sifting through a data archive have confirmed that a Kuiper Belt object discovered earlier this year is the largest minor planet in the solar system. The team of astronomers used Astrovirtel, a new "virtual observatory" that collects images from a number of observatories, to locate 2001 KX76 in images dating back to 1982. These prediscovery observations allowed astronomers to refine the object's orbit and compute new estimates of its size: between 1,200 and 1,400 km in diameter. This is significantly larger than Ceres, the largest asteroid, which is 932 km across, and is larger than Pluto's moon Charon, whose diameter is no more than 1,200 km. 2001 KX76 is roughly have the size of Pluto itself, and will likely become new evidence in the debate regarding reclassifying Pluto as a Kuiper Belt object in addition to, or rather than, as a planet.
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