Southwest Research Institute | 2020 Sep 28
A new study authored by Southwest Research Institute scientists Rodrigo Leiva and Marc Buie reveals the binary nature of a trans-Neptunian object (TNO). Leiva and Buie utilized data obtained by the Research and Education Collaborative Occultation Network (RECON), a citizen science research network dedicated to observing the outer solar system. ...
Trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) are small icy bodies that orbit the Sun beyond Neptune. Binary TNOs occur when two of these objects orbit each other while together orbiting the Sun. Leiva and Buie discovered two objects in a particularly close gravitational configuration. The pair was detected using a stellar occultation, which occurs when an object passes between Earth and a distant star which hides, or “occults,” the star from view. Observers located in the path of the object’s shadow can record the star blinking out and reappearing. The length of time that the object blocks the starlight can be used to determine its size.
“In this instance, the occulted star also turned out to be a binary system. Binary stars are not unusual and binary objects are not unusual,” Buie said. “But it is unusual that we had a binary TNO occulting a binary star.”
“What’s also interesting and unusual is this object’s characteristics,” Leiva said. “The two components are quite close, only 350 kilometers apart. Most binary TNOs are very separated, usually 1,000 kilometers or more. This closeness makes this type of binary TNO difficult to detect with other methods, which is what RECON was designed to accomplish.” ...
Stellar Occultation by the Resonant Trans-Neptunian Object
(523764) 2014 WC510 Reveals a Close Binary TNO ~ Rodrigo Leiva et al
- Planetary Science Journal 1(2):48 (2020 Sep) DOI: 10.3847/PSJ/abb23d