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Additional resources for Beyond Pluto [Elektronisk resurs] : exploring the outer limits of the solar system
By providing a much longer baseline of observations, or a longer arc, old observations make possible a more precise determination of the orbit, which in turn allows better calculations to be made of the object’s past and future positions. These improved estimates of its past position sometimes make further precoveries possible, and this improves the knowledge of the orbit still further. In the case of 26 provided a big enough arc that its orbit was soon deﬁned well enough that it could be numbered minor planet 2060.
Its director was Brian Marsden, an avuncular, expatriate Englishman who had developed an interest in cometary orbits as a schoolboy in the 1950s. The Centaurs name of the ‘Central Bureau’ is housed at the Smithsonian After getting a degree from Oxford University, Marsden left England for Yale University and enrolled in that establishment’s respected celestial mechanics programme. He was awarded a PhD in 1965 and, at the invitation of Fred Whipple, moved to the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.
The ﬁrst tholins were produced by taking ﬂasks of simple gases which were expected to exist in the atmospheres of gas giant planets and subjecting them to electrical discharges to simulate the effects of lightning on the primitive atmospheres. The results of these experiments were a mish-mash of carbon bearing molecules such as amino acids and a red-brownish material that was quite stable and difﬁcult to destroy. This residue was named a tholin (from a Greek word meaning dirty) and will be familiar to anyone who has tried to clean up old glassware which has been used in organic chemistry laboratories.