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20000 Varuna, 2000 WR106

Potential Dwarf Planet of the Solar System

Proper NameVaruna
Minor Planet Designation20000 Varuna
Provisional Designation2000 WR106
Orbital Period283 years, 69 days
Distance from the SunSemi-Major Axis: 6,451,398,000 km (43.13 AU)
Perihelion: 6,125,835,000 km (40.95 AU)
Aphelion: 6,776,961,000 km (45.30 AU)
Rotation Period6 hours, 21 minutes
Diameterc.670 km (longest axis)
MoonsNone known
NotesA large body, and probably a dwarf planet, orbiting the Sun in the Kuiper Belt. It is notable for its extremely rapid rotation period (the entire body turns on its axis in less than seven hours) with the result that Varuna has a distinctly elongated ellipsoid shape.

Varuna is a cubewano, one of a cloud of objects pursuing eccentric paths around the Sun beyond the orbit of Neptune, and a highly plausible candidate for the status of dwarf planet. Varuna's 281-year orbit is a little more distant from the Sun than that of Pluto - it never approaches the Sun by less than 40 AU - but complexities in the orbits of these two bodies mean that Varuna can at times lie closer to the Sun than Pluto.

When it was discovered in the year 2000, Varuna was the largest such planet-like body yet found, and so was assigned the significant minor planet number of 20000, though there are now numerous known bodies larger than Varuna. The planetoid's name comes from a god of the Hindu pantheon, part of whose province was the celestial ocean: a suitable name for a body circling the outer reaches of the Solar System.

Varuna is far from spherical in shape. Rather, it appears to have an elongated and flattened form, probably approaching 700km along its long axis. This object is also notable for its unusually rapid pattern of rotation: Varuna spins on its axis in a period of the just over six hours.


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