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Waspie_Dwarf

Reality-Check for Asteroid Studies

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Dawn Reality-Checks Telescope Studies of Asteroids

Tantalized by images from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based data, scientists thought the giant asteroid Vesta deserved a closer look. They got a chance to do that in 2011 and 2012, when NASA's Dawn spacecraft orbited the giant asteroid, and they were able to check earlier conclusions. A new study involving Dawn’s observations during that time period demonstrates how this relationship works with Hubble and ground-based telescopes to clarify our understanding of a solar system object.

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Ceres is considered a dwarf planet now? With a crust mantle and core could Vesta be considered one also or is there a minimum size requirement?

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Ceres is considered a dwarf planet now?

It has been since since 2006 when the definition of a dwarf planet was drawn up. There are a few bodies likely to be added to the list at the moment, but there are 5 objects currently designated a dwarf planet (all being so designated in 2006). The objects are:

  1. Ceres
  2. Pluto
  3. Haumea
  4. Makemake
  5. Eris

With a crust mantle and core could Vesta be considered one also or is there a minimum size requirement?

The designation of dwarf planet has an indirectly minimum size limit. It's internal structure is irrelevant (Jupiter does not have srust or mantle but most definitely IS a planet).

Both planets and dwarf planets must orbit the sun and have "sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape."

Since Vesta is irregular in shape it can not be either a planet nor a dwarf planet and so is officially designated a "small solar system body".

Dwarf planet is a misleading term as the difference between a planet and a dwarf planet is nothing to do with size. It is dependent on whether the object has "has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit". Since Ceres (like Pluto) is just one of many objects in the same neighbourhood they are not considered planets. Even if a object the size of Earth was found in the Kuiper Belt it would be considered a dwarf planet. By the same token if an object the size of Pluto was found in an orbit it had cleared it would be a planet.

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