Quaoar Night Thread

Quaoar is a non-resonant, trans-Neptunian Kuiper belt object discovered in 2002. It is less than half the size of Pluto and about 1/8 the size of Earth. It was discovered by Caltech postdoc Chad Trujillo and professor Michael Brown, and confirmed by viewing photographic plates taken in 1983 by famed astronomer Charles Kowal, who was apparently searching for the mythical Planet X. This seems ridiculous, especially since Kowal made numerous real space discoveries, including asteroids, comets, supernovae, and two moons of Jupiter, and has a crater on Pluto named after him. Kowal also conducted the research showing that Galileo “discovered” Neptune more than 200 years prior to its official discovery, except that because the distant planet had just entered retrograde at the time Galileo spotted it, he thought it was stationary and hence merely a star.

Quaoar is named for the Tongva creator deity, also called Kwarar, Kwaarar, or any of several additional variations. The Tongva are an indigenous people who lived in Southern California and the Channel Islands at the time of European contact, whose population was decimated during the Mission period. In Tongva mythology, as far as I can tell, Quaoar created Weywot, the god of the sky, and when Brown and Trujillo discovered Quaoar (the space object) has a moon, that’s what they named it.

These two astronomers are also known for discovering Eris, a dwarf planet larger than Pluto, whose discovery prompted the International Astronomical Union to more clearly define what is and is not a planet, thus downgrading Pluto in 2006, from planet to Kuiper belt object. If it wasn’t for Quaoar, additional Kuiper belt discoveries may not have occurred, and Pluto might still be our ninth planet.

Night thread.