Has a New Moon Within Our Solar System Been Found?

  • Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs) are thought to be among the least evolved relics of the solar system formation, residing in the outer parts of the solar system, where the influence of the Sun is less severe than in the inner parts of the solar system.
  • Experts calculated that (84522) 2002 TC302 could have a moon with a diameter of about 124 miles, located 1,242 miles away from it.
  • It is not the first satellite found near a TRANS-Neptunian object.

Astronomers discovered a satellite near a large celestial body far beyond the orbit of Neptune. It is very difficult to study Trans-Neptunian objects (tnos). They are too far from the Sun, and therefore reflect very little light. TRANS-Neptunian Objects (TNOs) are thought to be among the least evolved relics of the solar system formation, residing in the outer parts of the solar system, where the influence of the Sun is less severe than in the inner parts of the solar system.

The TRANS-Neptunian object (84522) 2002 TC302.

It is believed that these bodies have changed the least since the birth of the Solar system. Therefore, astronomers are happy with any data about these relics, which allow us to look into the distant past of our space family.

The TRANS-Neptunian object (84522) 2002 TC302 was discovered in 2002 by Mike Brown’s team at the Palomar Observatory, an astronomical observatory located in San Diego County, California, 145 kilometers southeast of Los Angeles in the Palomar Mountain Range. It is owned and operated by the California Institute of Technology, located in Pasadena.

It was observed at least 126 times up until 2018. Scientists have calculated that it orbits the Sun every 417 earth years. The heat flux from this celestial body was measured using the Herschel and Spitzer infrared telescopes. Hershel is a European Space Agency project in conjunction with NASA. Based on this data, its size is calculated to be approximately 362 miles.

Observatories and Characteristics.

Scientists did not miss the moment. Instruments from Italy, Spain, France, Slovenia and Switzerland aimed at the desired area of the sky. The instruments accurately measured whether the eclipse of the star was observed from this point of the globe, and if so, when it began and when it ended.

This data allowed us to calculate the diameter of the object independently of the data from “Herschel” and “Spitzer”. Of the 14 instruments, 12 fell into the shadow region (84522) 2002 TC302 and recorded eclipses. Using this data, astronomers have redefined the size of the celestial body.  The measurements of the Herschel and Spitzer had such a margin of error that the new figures fit in perfectly. But there is a more intriguing interpretation.

Experts calculated that (84522) 2002 TC302 could have a moon with a diameter of about 124 miles, located 1242 miles away from it. It could have been captured by infrared telescopes. For these tools, it merges with its cartridge, increasing its intended diameter. Even Hubble, which also observed (84522) 2002 TC302, could not distinguish that these are two separate objects.

The preprint of this fascinating work is available here.

This is not the first satellite found near a TRANS-Neptunian object, even if you do not take into account the moon of Pluto. But each of these solutions is very valuable to astronomers.

[bsa_pro_ad_space id=4]

Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

Leave a Reply