Hubble image of dwarf planet 2007 OR10. Image credit: NASA
The combined power of three space observatories, including NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, has helped astronomers uncover a moon orbiting the third largest dwarf planet, catalogued as 2007 OR10. The pair reside in the frigid outskirts of our Solar System called the Kuiper Belt, a realm of icy debris left over from our Solar System’s formation 4.6 billion years ago.
With this discovery, most of the known dwarf planets in the Kuiper Belt larger than 600 miles across have companions. These bodies provide insight into how moons formed in the young Solar System.
“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,” says Csaba Kiss of the Konkoly Observatory in Budapest, Hungary. “If there were frequent collisions, then it was quite easy to form these satellites.”
The objects most likely slammed into each other more often because they inhabited a crowded region. “There must have been a fairly high density of objects, and some of them were ...