August 13, 2016

Discovery of odd Trans-Neptunian Object that is above the plane of the solar system and swings backward around the sun

There has been the discovery of an odd TNO or trans-Neptunian object. It sits beyond Neptune in the outer solar system. This one is 160,000 times fainter than Neptune, which means the icy world could be less than 200 kilometers in diameter. It’s currently above the plane of the solar system and with every passing day, it’s moving upwards – a fact that makes it an oddity.

The TNO orbits in a plane that’s tilted 110 degrees to the plane of the solar system. What’s more, it swings around the sun backwards unlike most of the other objects in the solar system. With this in mind, the team that discovered the TNO nicknamed it “Niku” after the Chinese adjective for rebellious.

Scientists think the object must have come into collision with something else, or was pulled off course by another gravitational source. But right now, nobody knows what this other object or group of objects could be.

Although the majority of Centaurs are thought to have originated in the scattered disk, with the high-inclination members coming from the Oort cloud, the origin of the high inclination component of trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) remains uncertain. We report the discovery of a retrograde TNO, which we nickname "Niku", detected by the Pan-STARRS 1 Outer Solar System Survey. Our numerical integrations show that the orbital dynamics of Niku are very similar to that of 2008 KV42 (Drac), with a half-life of ∼500 Myr. Comparing similar high inclination TNOs and Centaurs, we find that these objects exhibit a surprising clustering of ascending node, and occupy a common orbital plane. This orbital configuration has high statistical significance: 3.8-σ. An unknown mechanism is required to explain the observed clustering. This discovery may provide a pathway to investigate a possible reservoir of high-inclination objects.









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