A thoroughly sporadic column from astronomer Mike Brown on space and science, planets and dwarf planets, the sun, the moon, the stars, and the joys and frustrations of search, discovery, and life. With a family in tow. Or towing. Or perhaps in mutual orbit.

Ten years of Eris

Ten years ago today I came in to the same office I’m in at this moment, sat down in the same chair I am sitting in now, probably stared out the window at the clear blue sky much like I’m doing right now. It’s even likely that I drank coffee out of the very cup I’m drinking out of. Other than that, though, nothing was the same. Just a week earlier, on Dec 28th 2004, I had discovered the second brightest object that we had ever seen in the Kuiper belt (the brightest, of course, being Pluto). We didn’t yet know how big it was so my mind kept spinning with possibilities. Maybe it had a dark comet like surface and so to be so bright it had to be really big! Maybe as big as Pluto! Maybe bigger! (The object, now called Haumea, is now known to be about a third of the mass of Pluto and one of the strangest objects in the outer solar system).

Perhaps even more exciting, I had discovered the object while re-processing old images that I had taken a few years back. There was another year’s worth of images to re-process. Maybe there would be more!