Cancer Solstice — June 20, 2008, 23:59 UT

By Kirsti Melto

The Sun reaches its most northern point around June 21 each year. This is when it is crossing the first degree of Cancer, one of the cardinal points. The word solstice means to stand still, but a lot is going on in the sky at the moment.

Only a couple of days ago we had a magnificent Full Moon in the late degrees of Sagittarius. The Moon was conjunct Pluto and the Galactic Core. The next day, Mercury made its direct station in Gemini. Mercury will be in the echo phase over the next couple of weeks, traveling through the mid degrees of Gemini for the third time. The Sun makes an opposition to Pluto about four hours before ingressing into Cancer.

The Sun, Venus, Ceres and Cyllarus have remained in conjunction around the first degree of Cancer and opposite Pluto. Venus sextiles Saturn. The Moon is now in Capricorn in wide conjunction with Jupiter, the ruler of Sagittarius. The Moon squares Vesta in Aries. Mars in Leo opposes Chiron and Neptune on the North Node of the Moon.

Uranus is very tightly opposite cubewano 2005 FY9 in Virgo. 2005 FY9 is a big Kuiper belt object, one of the three bright objects whose existence was announced in July 2005. The two other bodies were Eris and 2003 EL61. The discoverer Mike Brown and his team have nicknamed 2005 FY9 as “Easter bunny.”

2005 FY9 is a classical Kuiper belt object. Its size is about three-quarters the size of Pluto. It is the third larges Kuiper belt object after Eris and Pluto, and the second brightest Kuiper belt object after Pluto. The orbital period is 308 years, so it is orbiting the Sun a little farther than Pluto. Like Pluto’s, its orbit is somewhat eccentric and highly inclined. It is sometimes referred as “a Pluto twin”, because it is very similar to Pluto, having its surface covered in frozen methane, and possibly also having a thin atmosphere, like Pluto.

Uranus and 2005 FY9 are both occupying 22+ degrees of the signs that they are residing at the moment, Pisces and Virgo, respectively. They have been traveling in conjunction within one-degree orb since May. Uranus is going to station retrograde at the end of June, while 2005 FY9 goes on in direct motion, so they don’t quite reach the exact opposition aspect this time. The exact opposition is going to take place in April 2009.

2005 FY9 is not yet named by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), but we can expect to hear about the naming any day now. This is due to the IAU’s decision last week to name bright, Pluto-like dwarf planets as plutoids. There are two plutoids named at the moment: Pluto and Eris. The two other objects fitting in the category are 2005 FY9 and 2003 EL61. According to the current naming rules of the IAU, 2005 FY9 will receive a permanent name after a creation deity.

One of the attributes of Uranus is suddenness. People have been waiting for the naming of this new, quite big and bright object 2005 FY9, and nothing has happened. Now there is this very accurate aspect between Uranus and 2005 FY9 in the skies. Also the IAU announced the naming of a new category as plutoids, which came as a surprise even to researchers and discoverers of these new objects. The IAU’s decision now also enables the naming of 2005 FY9.

The fact that astronomers found a planet bigger than Pluto, which led to the demotion of Pluto, and the naming of Eris about two years ago, has left 2005 FY9 for less attention. 2005 FY9 is a notable member of the new solar system, and now it is a high time to give it some heed it deserves.

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