While some scientists are trying to find somewhere beyond the orbitNeptune’s mysterious “Ninth Planet”, others discover a new class of compact trans-Neptunian objects. A team of specialists from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan reported the discovery of small objects, just a few kilometers in diameter, in the Kuiper Belt that science has only suspected until now. On the results of the work of Japanese astronomers writes the journal Nature Astronomy.
The opening of the object may indicate the presence of a newclass bodies rotating in the Kuiper Belt. This area, starting beyond the orbit of Neptune (30 astronomical units), in which there are small ice bodies remaining after the formation of the solar system, extends to hundreds of astronomical units. Given the size and low gloss of the objects under discussion, they cannot be detected by traditional methods, for example, by determining the light reflected from them.
Scientists decide to turn to more exoticsearch method - transit. He recall, as a rule, is used when searching for new exoplanets and is a monitoring of the changing brightness of the star, which may hint at the presence in the system of some object of planetary shape.
Researchers began searching with a selection of abouttwo thousand stars, which were continuously monitored for more than 60 hours using two small 28-cm telescopes mounted on the roof of a school in Okinawa Prefecture. By monitoring the so-called light curves of these stars, astronomers tried not to miss the moment when the light of any of them was briefly eclipsed by something that was on the way. The observers' expectations were met in full - they discovered a planetezemal about 1.3 kilometers in size. The object is about 32 astronomical units from Earth. In other words, the body rotates around the Sun alongside Pluto, whose orbit lies in approximately 29-49 astronomical units. This is the first detected object of this class. Previously, they existed only in theoretical models.
“This is a real victory for small projects. The budget of our team is less than 0.3% of the budget of large international projects. We do not even have money to build a dome for our second telescope! However, we managed to make a discovery inaccessible for large projects, ”comments the co-author of the discovery, the astronomer Ko Arimatsu.
Among astronomers there is an idea thatthat objects like the discovery of Japanese scientists several billion years ago took part in the formation of the planets of the solar system. After the birth of the Sun, a disk of gas and dust remained in the system, in which, under the influence of electrostatic forces, dense clots of matter began to form, which gradually grew, eventually becoming planets. Such disks exist in many other star systems, which are conducted astronomical observations. Kuiper Belt, located in our system, in turn is just one of these disks. It contains a lot of rocky and icy bodies, remaining since the completion of the formation of the solar system.
Detection and investigation of the most compact,up to 10 kilometers in size, cosmic bodies, which scientists call planetezelami, can tell us about how the initial union of the particles of matter, from which the planets were subsequently born, came. The discovery of the first such planetesa earthy may indicate that the Kuiper Belt may contain much more such objects. In addition, their discovery indicates that our existing models of planet formation are generally correct.
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