Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Dwarf Planet 2007 OR10 Much Larger Than Originally Thought

According to a team of astronomers making use of data from two powerful orbital telescopes, a dwarf planet known as 2007 OR10 orbiting in the far reaches of our solar system is significantly larger than previously believed. The results of the study makes the little-known planetoid the third largest dwarf planet behind Pluto and Eris.

Previous observations of 2007 OR10 using only infrared data from the Herschel telescope had estimated the dwarf planet to have a diameter of around 795 miles (1,280 km). However, these readings were taken without knowledge of 2007 OR10's rotational period, which is a key variable needed for astronomers to extrapolate the size of a heavenly body.

Without this key variable, the light detected by a telescope could lead to incorrect estimations of a planetoid's size, as was the case with 2007 OR10. A smaller body with a brighter surface could potentially appear larger than a darker, much larger dwarf planet.

The new research paired infrared readings collected by Herschel with visible light data harvested by the Kepler spacecraft, which was tasked with observing 2007 OR10 for a continuous period of 19 days in late 2014. The combination of the data sets allowed astronomers to deduce a number of characteristics of the distant planetoid.

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