Nondescript planetary formation piece less than a mile wide
Artist size print of a kilometer. Image Credit: Ko Arimatsu
A brave group of low-budget amateur astronomers took a major hit by identifying the smallest object in the Kuiper Belt that surrounds our outer solar system.
The OASES team placed a pair of small 28 cm telescopes on the roof of a school on Miyako Island, Japan. For more than 60 hours, they monitored 2,000 suns and observed the revealing dive of luminosity that arises when an object briefly obscures the Earth view.
As a result, according to an article in Nature Astronomy, they found the smallest object known in the Kuiper Belt, a piece of material just 1.3 km in diameter.
They found in an area beyond the orbit of Neptune, home to millions of bits of icy volatiles. It is the first entity belonging to a class of bodies with rays of one to ten kilometers, predicted more than 70 years ago.
"This is a real victory for small projects," said Ko Arimatsu, the study's lead author and researcher at Japan's National Astronomical Observatory.
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"We have not even had enough money to build a second summit to protect our second telescope, but we have been able to make a discovery that is impossible for major projects." "
The Solar System is full of debris from the protoplanetary garbage that has formed around our young Sun billions of years ago. Only a small proportion of these dusty particles were able to group together to form planets.
Pluto, the dwarf planet with a 1,887-kilometer radius, is the largest object ever found in the belt. Researchers at NASA are currently investigating Ultima Thule, another interesting 10-mile-diameter specimen, made up of two bodies captured in the colliding act.
This new finding suggests that the current theory of planetesimals as Ultima Thule and the new object are the building blocks of the planets is probably correct.
"Now that we know that our system works, we will investigate the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt in more detail. We also have our vision in Oort Cloud not yet discovered beyond that, "said Arimatsu.