Newly Discovered 840 Small Planets Beyond Neptune (Download PDF)


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Researchers have discovered & confirmed 840 small worlds in distant, hard-to-reach area beyond Neptune. This is single largest finding of planets ever made & increases number of distant planets around sun by 50%.

Image of Newly Discovered 840 Small Planets

Image of Newly Discovered 840 Small Planets

Image of Newly Discovered 840 Small Planets

About Latest Discovery

  • Latest discovery is result of 5-year project called Outer Solar System Origins Survey (OSSOS). Observation conducted in 2013 - 2017, by using imaging camera installed on Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope in Hawaii. Researchers looked for faint, slow-moving points of light within 8 big patches of sky near plane of planets & away from dense stars of Milky Way.

    Discovered 840 small planets at distances b/w 6 & 83 astronomical units (au). Astronomical unit is average distance b/w Earth & Sun, which is used to measure distances within our solar system.

  • New rocky objects can be divided into 2 groups-

    • Those that move on roundish orbits in Kuiper belt that extends from 37 au to 50 au from sun.

    • Worlds that orbit in careful avoidance w/Neptune as it travels around sun.

  • Researchers created accompanying software “simulator” (computer model), which provides powerful tool for testing inventory & history of solar system.

  • These are known as “resonant” trans-Neptunian objects & include Pluto. They were moved into their current elongated orbits during Neptune’s planetary migration outwards from sun disk.

  • Planetary objects are known as “trans-Neptunian objects”. These are little iced worlds that will help tell history of solar system.

  • In Kuiper belt, 436 small worlds found. Their orbits confirm that concentrated “kernel” of population nestles on round, flat orbits at 43 to 45 au.

Image of Largest Khown Trans - Neptunian objects (TNOs)

Image of Largest Khown Trans - Neptunian Objects (TNOs)

Image of Largest Khown Trans - Neptunian objects (TNOs)

  • 313 resonant trans-Neptunian objects found, they exist as far out as incredible 130au.

  • Unseen large planet, sometimes called “Planet Nine”, could be causing them to cluster in space.

  • Latest discovery will help map minor planet populations that went outward from sun’s disk & help to reconstruct how larger planets were pushed into their orbits.

  • Discovery of these icy objects have raised possibility of undiscovered planets in outer region of solar system.

- Published/Last Modified on: August 17, 2018

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