A new submm source within a few arcseconds of α Centauri: ALMA discovers the most distant object of the solar system
Liseau et al
The understanding of the formation of stellar and planetary systems requires the understanding of the structure and dynamics of their outmost regions, where large bodies are not expected to form. Serendipitous searches for Sedna-like objects allows the observation of regions that are normally not surveyed. The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is particularly sensitive to point sources and it presents currently the only means to detect Sedna-like objects far beyond their perihelia. ALMA observations 10 months apart revealed a new blackbody point source that is apparently comoving with α Cen B. We exclude that source to be a sub-/stellar member of the α Centauri system, but argue that it is either an extreme TNO, a Super-Earth or a very cool brown dwarf in the outer realm of the solar system.
oooo. Academic bun fight:
The serendipitous discovery of a possible new solar system object with ALMA
Vlemmings et al
The unprecedented sensitivity of the Atacama Large millimeter/submillimeter array (ALMA) is providing many new discoveries. Several of these are serendipitous to the original goal of the observations. We report the discovery of previously unknown continuum sources, or a single fast moving new source, in our ALMA observations. Here we aim to determine the nature of the detections. The detections, at greater than 5.8σ in the image plane and greater than 14σ in the (u,v)−plane, were made in two epochs of ALMA observations of a 25 arc second region around the asymptotic giant branch star W Aql in the continuum around 345 GHz. At a third epoch, covering 50x50 arcseconds, the source(s) were not seen. We have investigated if the detections could be spurious, if they could constitute a population of variable background sources, or if the observations revealed a fast moving single object. Based on our analysis, we conclude that a single object (with a flux of ∼3.0 mJy) exhibiting a large proper motion (∼87 arcsec/yr) is the most likely explanation. Until the nature of the source becomes clear, we have named it Gna. Unless there are yet unknown, but significant, issues with ALMA observations, we have detected a previously unknown objects in our solar system. Based on proper motion analysis we find that, if it is gravitationally bound, Gna is currently located at 12−25 AU distance and has a size of ∼220−880 km. Alternatively it is a much larger, planet-sized, object, gravitationally unbound, and located within ∼4000 AU, or beyond (out to ∼0.3~pc) if it is strongly variable. Our observations highlight the power of ALMA in detecting possible solar system objects, but also show how multiple epoch observations are crucial to identify what are otherwise probably assumed to be extra-galactic sources.