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Indian-origin Researcher part of Team that Discovered Mars-sized object Lurking at Edge of Solar System

Something unknown is warping the average orbital plane of the outer solar system

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Mars-sized planetary mass object lurking in the outer reaches of our solar system. Pixabay
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New York, June 26, 2017: Researchers, including one of the Indian-origin, have found evidence of an unknown, Mars-sized “planetary mass object” lurking in the outer reaches of our solar system. This object would be different from — and much closer than — the so-called Planet Nine, a planet whose existence yet awaits confirmation, according to the study to be published in a forthcoming issue of the Astronomical Journal.

In the paper, Kat Volk and Renu Malhotra of the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL) present compelling evidence of a yet-to-be-discovered planetary body with a mass somewhere between that of Mars and Earth. The mysterious mass, the authors showed, has given away its presence — for now — only by controlling the orbital planes of a population of space rocks known as Kuiper Belt Objects (KBO), in the icy outskirts of the solar system.

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While most KBOs — debris left over from the formation of the solar system — orbit the Sun with orbital tilts (inclinations) that average out to what planetary scientists call the invariable plane of the solar system, the most distant of the Kuiper Belt’s objects do not. Their average plane, Volk and Malhotra discovered, is tilted away from the invariable plane by about eight degrees. In other words, something unknown is warping the average orbital plane of the outer solar system. “The most likely explanation for our results is that there is some unseen mass,” says Volk, a postdoctoral fellow at LPL and the lead author of the study.

“According to our calculations, something as massive as Mars would be needed to cause the warp that we measured,” Volk said. For the study, Volk and Malhotra analysed the tilt angles of the orbital planes of more than 600 objects in the Kuiper Belt in order to determine the common direction about which these orbital planes all precess. Precession refers to the slow change or “wobble” in the orientation of a rotating object. (IANS)

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First Carbon Rich Asteroid Found in Kuiper Belt

The researchers found that the asteroid's reflectance spectrum -- the specific pattern of wavelengths of light reflected from an object -- was different to that of similar small Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs), which typically have uninteresting, featureless spectra that reveal little information about their composition.

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This object, designated 2004 EW95, likely formed in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and has been flung billions of kilometres from its origin to its current home in the Kuiper Belt, the study said.
Astronomers find first carbon-rich asteroid in Kuiper Belt, pixabay

Astronomers have discovered an unusual carbon-rich asteroid in the Kuiper Belt — the first of its kind to be confirmed in the cold outer reaches of the solar system.

This object, designated 2004 EW95, likely formed in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and has been flung billions of kilometres from its origin to its current home in the Kuiper Belt, the study said.

The researchers found that the asteroid’s reflectance spectrum — the specific pattern of wavelengths of light reflected from an object — was different to that of similar small Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs), which typically have uninteresting, featureless spectra that reveal little information about their composition.

“The reflectance spectrum of 2004 EW95 was clearly distinct from the other observed outer Solar System objects,” explained lead author Tom Seccull of Queen’s University Belfast in Britain

“It looked enough of a weirdo for us to take a closer look,” Seccull added.

In particular, these models suggest that the Kuiper Belt -- a cold region beyond the orbit of Neptune -- should contain a small fraction of rocky bodies from the inner solar system, such as carbon-rich asteroids, referred to as carbonaceous asteroids.
representational image, pixabay

Theoretical models of the early days of our solar system predict that after the gas giants formed they rampaged through the solar system, ejecting small rocky bodies from the inner solar system to far-flung orbits at great distances from the Sun.

In particular, these models suggest that the Kuiper Belt — a cold region beyond the orbit of Neptune — should contain a small fraction of rocky bodies from the inner solar system, such as carbon-rich asteroids, referred to as carbonaceous asteroids.

The new study, published in The Astrophysical Journal, presented evidence for the first reliably-observed carbonaceous asteroid in the Kuiper Belt, providing strong support for these theoretical models of our solar system’s troubled youth.

Also Read: NASA Chief: Moon Mission a Step Forward to Reach Mars 

After measurements from multiple instruments at European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), the team of astronomers was able to measure the composition of the object.

The results suggest that it originally formed in the inner solar system and must have since migrated outwards. (IANS)