A New Moon Discovered In Our Solar System

Posted: May 20 2017, 12:52pm CDT | by , Updated: May 20 2017, 12:56pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
A New Moon Discovered in our Solar System
Credit: NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope

The third largest dwarf planet in our solar system has its own moon

A new moon is discovered around a dwarf planet in our solar system.

Using observations from three powerful telescopes including NASA’s Hubble, astronomers have detected a moon orbiting the third largest dwarf planet at the edge of our solar system. The planet, called 2007 OR10, has a diameter of 955 miles across and it resides in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

The asteroid belt, called Kuiper Belt, contains almost half a dozen small, icy dwarf planets including Pluto and almost all of them have their own companion satellites. Since moons are believed to have formed by collisions between their parent bodies and other objects, these dwarf planets can hold the key to understanding moon’s formation in our solar system billions of 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 lead author Csaba Kiss from Konkoly Observatory in Hungary "If there were frequent collisions, then it was quite easy to form these satellites.”

The first hints of new moon have been discovered by two separate images from Hubble Space Telescope. The images were taken a year apart, in 2009 and in 2010 and show a moon orbiting the dwarf planet in two different positions. Further observations from NASA's Kepler Space Telescope confirmed the existence of the moon.

However, the observations from both Hubble and Kepler telescopes could not help researchers to determine the orbit of the newfound moon. So researchers used Herschel Space Observatory to gain more insight into its rotation.

“Typical rotation periods for Kuiper Belt Objects are under 24 hours," said Kiss. "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.”

Dwarf planet 2007 OR10 is a member of the class of minor planets in our solar system that lurks in the depths beyond Neptune. It is a huge dwarf planet. Only Pluto and Eris are bigger than the 2007 OR10.

As these objects are too far away from Earth, they are difficult to observe, even with large telescopes. But they can help unravel mysteries of the universe.

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