A new moon orbiting the third largest dwarf planet that resides in the chilly outskirts in our solar system has been discovered by scientists.
With this discovery, most of the known dwarf planets in the Kuiper Belt larger than 965 kilometres across have companions. These bodies provide insight into how moons formed in the young solar system.
Most of the known dwarf planets in the Kuiper Belt larger than 965 kilometres across have now companions with this discovery.
With the help of combined power of three space observatories that include NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, the moon orbiting the dwarf planet 2007 OR10 in the Kuiper Belt was discovered. The moon has icy rubbish that was left over from formation of our solar system 4.6 billion years ago.
“The discovery of satellites around all of the known large dwarf planets - except for Sedna - means that at the time these bodies formed billions of years ago, collisions must have been more frequent, and that’s a constraint on the formation models,” said Csaba Kiss of the Konkoly Observatory in Hungary.
“If there were frequent collisions, then it was quite easy to form these satellites,” said Kiss, lead author of the study published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Because of the reason that they inhabited a crowded region, the objects most probably collided into each other often.
The moon was found by the team in archival images of 2007 OR10. The images were taken by the Hubble telescope.
The dwarf planet’s observations taken by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope were first indicative to astronomers of the possibility of a moon circling it.
Kepler revealed that 2007 OR10 has a slow rotation period of 45 hours.
“Typical rotation periods for Kuiper Belt Objects are under 24 hours,” Kiss said.
“We looked in the Hubble archive because the slower rotation period could have been caused by the gravitational tug of a moon. The initial investigator missed the moon in the Hubble images because it is very faint,” he said.
The moon was spotted by the astronomers in two separate Hubble observations that were conducted in gap of an year. In the images it was shown that the moon is gravitationally bound to 2007 OR10 because it moves with the dwarf planet, as seen against a background of stars.