Image via Hubblesite
Astronomers have found a moon for the Kuiper Belt object known as 2007 OR10. This object is one of several of the uncounted icy bodies in that region of space – beyond the outermost major planet, Neptune – that has been categorized as a dwarf planet. That’s because it’s relatively big, the third-biggest dwarf planet known after Pluto and Eris. The new moon’s discovery means that most of the known dwarf planets in the Kuiper Belt larger than 600 miles (1,000 km) across have companions. Astronomers are using this discovery as a springboard for contemplating what must have been happening billions of years ago, when our sun and its planets were young. They’re thinking about how collisions between solar system bodies – which often create craters like those we see on Earth’s moon – can also create binary objects, that is, planets or dwarf planets or even asteroids with moons.
The team’s results appear in a peer-reviewed “express” journal (which lets authors publish on a shorter-than-usual timeframe), The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Observations taken of 2007 OR10 by the famous planet-hunting Kepler Space Telescope first tipped off the astronomers of the possibility of a moon circling it. ...