|Manu||Date: Tuesday, 17-March-2020, 6:50 PM | Message # 1|
|139 new objects discovered beyond Neptune|
By Mike Wall
The list of Pluto's neighbors just got considerably longer, potentially boosting scientists' odds of finding the putative Planet Nine.
Astronomers have discovered 139 more "minor planets" — small bodies circling the sun that are neither official planets nor comets — in the dark, frigid depths beyond Neptune's orbit, a new study reports. The new additions represent nearly 5% of the current trans-Neptunian object (TNO) tally, which stands at about 3,000, the researchers said.
The scientists pored over data gathered by the Dark Energy Survey (DES) during its first four years of operation, from 2013 to 2017. The DES studies the heavens using the 520-megapixel Dark Energy Camera, which is mounted on the Blanco 4-meter telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.
As the project's name implies, the main goal of the DES involves shedding light on dark energy, the mysterious force thought to be behind the universe's accelerating expansion. But the high-resolution DES imagery has a number of other applications, including the discovery of small objects in our own solar system, as the new study shows.
The researchers started out with 7 billion DES-detected dots, which they whittled down to 22 million "transients" after ruling out objects such as galaxies that appeared in roughly the same spot on multiple nights. Those 22 million were further culled to 400 TNO candidates, whose movements the team was able to track over at least six different nights.
After months of vetting by analysis and observation, the team verified 316 of the small bodies as bona fide TNOs. These cataloged objects lie between 30 and 90 astronomical units (AU) from the sun, and 139 of them are new to science, the researchers said. (1 AU is the Earth-sun distance, which is about 93 million miles, or 150 million kilometers.)
The techniques the researchers developed could aid future TNO searches, including those potentially conducted by the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, which is scheduled to come online in the early 2020s, study team members said.
"Many of the programs we've developed can be easily applied to any other large datasets, such as what the Rubin Observatory will produce," lead author Pedro Bernardinelli, a physics and astronomy graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, said in a statement.
Read more/source - https://www.space.com/minor-p....ey.html