New Dwarf Planet Named After Joe Biden

| Wed Mar. 26, 2014 5:27 PM EDT

Guess what? Joe Biden now has a dwarf planet named after him:

The new planetoid, estimated about to be about 250 miles wide, is now 7.7 billion miles from the sun. That is about the closest it gets. At the other end of its orbit, the planetoid, which for now carries the unwieldy designation of 2012 VP113, loops out to a distance of 42 billion miles....For convenience, the scientists shorten the 2012 VP113 designation to VP, which in turn inspired their nickname for planetoid: Biden, after Vice President Joseph R. Biden.

Appropriately, the actions of the Biden dwarf suggest the presence of something more powerful in the neighborhood:

Intriguingly, the astronomers said that details of the orbits hint at perhaps an unseen planet several times the size of Earth at the solar system’s distant outskirts....Trujillo and Dr. Sheppard point out that Sedna and 2012 VP113 have similar values for one orbital parameter known as the argument of perhelion, as do several other bodies at the edge of the Kuiper Belt. That could be a sign of the gravitational influence of an unseen planet.

Computer simulations showed that the data could be explained by a planet with a mass five times that of Earth at a distance of 23 billion miles from the sun, too dim to show up in current sky surveys.

The bad news is that if this turns out to be true, it "could reopen the debate over the definition of 'planet.'" Please. Not that. Haven't we done enough damage to the solar system already?

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