Solar Explorer: Dwarf planet Eris
The latest version of Solar Explorer brings you the the dwarf planet Eris, some random improvements, and of course, bug fixes.
Adding the dwarf planet Eris to Solar Explorer proved to be a great deal of work. Immediately after adding it, the first run showed Eris passing dangerously near Saturn at its closest approach to the Sun. It shouldn’t have come closer than Neptune. I eventually tracked down the problem to a bug that was miscalculating elliptical orbits. The bug didn’t show up for the existing objects in the app because their orbits are round enough to avoid it. Fixing it has slightly adjusted the scale of the model so getting around in flight mode might be faster or slower than it was depending on your chosen destination.
Once the dwarf planet Eris was in, it was time to colour the orbit lines differently for planets and other objects. With everything the same colour, there were simply too many overlapping lines which made it a bit confusing. I’ve opted to make the planet orbits blue and other objects green. The colour scheme may change in future releases.
I was alerted to a minor problem that caused the Solar System to be flipped upside down. When zoomed out to look at the complete map, you were actually looking at the bottom, not the top. Simply flipping the map over fixed the problem and everything should now be correct.
I’ve removed the link to the FAQ when the app starts and replaced it with my space apps twitter account, since that’s where all the action is these days.
The dwarf planet Eris
Discovered in 2005, Eris is the largest dwarf planet that we know of in our Solar System. It is approximately 2.2km in diameter and is believed to be composed of rock, ice and frozen gasses such as methane. The surface is thought to look similar to Pluto, but with a greyer appearance due to a coating of methane frost. As we do not have any close up pictures of Eris, I have created the surface images to match the best estimates available.
Because Eris is believed to be larger than Pluto, it was initially considered the 10th planet. At this time the International Astronomical Union (IAU) decided to finalise the definition of what a planet would be. To avoid classifying all Pluto-like objects as planets (Ceres, Haumea & Makemake), the IAU defined a Planet in such a way as to exclude Pluto from the list. This decision created a great deal of controversy that persists to this day.
It is estimated that Eris is 2,326k or 1,445mi in diameter, and 27% more massive than Pluto. It takes 558 years to complete an orbit of the Sun.