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Vatican scientist joins effort to define new object in solar system

One of the Vatican's top scientists has been chosen to be part of a five-man team of international astronomers to decide if Sedna - the most distant object yet seen orbiting the sun - is really a planet.

The new body currently lies some 12.8 billion kilometres away from the sun, "almost twice as far away as anything else in the solar system," said US Jesuit Br Guy Consolmagno, an astronomer at the Vatican Observatory.

But, because it is such a recent discovery and because it is so far away, scientists are not yet sure how to classify the far-flung new world.

"There was no working group on planets because no new planet has been discovered for the past 70 years, and there is no working definition of what a planet is, either," said Br Consolmagno.

The International Astronomical Union - a world body made up of about 100 member nations, including the Vatican - set up the working group to decide on an official definition of a planet. The union also will decide whether Sedna - named after the Inuit goddess of the Arctic Sea - can join the solar system's planetary club.

Vatican scientist named to panel to define new object in solar system (Catholic News Service 26/3/04)

International Astronomical Union
Vatican Observatory
Scientists: Most distant object in solar system found (CNN 15/3/04)

29 Mar 2004