New Moon Found Near Neptune

A moon with a view.

Scientist John Stansberry and colleagues have discovered a new moon orbiting the third- largest dwarf planet, 2007 OR10. All Trans Neptunium Objects (TNOs) have satellites in orbit. The dwarf planet Makemake was the ninth of ten TNOs to have a moon discovered last April.

Credits: NASA - Konkoly Observatory/András Pál, Hungarian Astronomical Association/Iván Éder, NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI New K2 results peg 2007 OR10 as the largest unnamed body in our solar system and the third largest of the current roster of about half a dozen dwarf planets. 

The discovery was made after Stansberry, and his team found 2007 OR10 to be rotating far slower than usual. The team suspected that a moon may be the cause. Using the Hubble Space Telescope archives for reference, they found eight images of 2007 OR10 from 2009 and 2010.

Stansberry and his team stretched the images harder until the elusive moon surfaced. The moon showed up in every image. The team shared their findings at the planetary sciences meeting in October and in their new paper.

2007 OR10’s moon gives scientists a glimpse of our solar system’s history.  TNO’s are remnants from the planet-building era. Giving researchers a unique opportunity to study the origins of our solar system.

These particular moons probably formed after the parent body collided with a large rock, scattering debris. Each TNO having their own moon suggests a claustrophobic and chaotic past.

“Today, those objects are fairly rare and them hitting each other is improbable, that means the environment there must have been denser: there must have been 10 or 100 times more objects out there in the past than there are now.”

Says Scott Sheppard of Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington DC.
Scientists are hoping to capture more images of the elusive moon orbiting 2007 OR10 to better understand the dwarf planet and origins of our solar system. Stanberry explains:

Knowing the mass and density tells you something about how much rock and ice is in the interior, which can tell you things about the gas chemistry in the protosolar disc

Header: Image from shutterstock

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