Friday, September 16, 2016

Niku: a Retrograde Orbiting Trans Neptunian Object


Chen et al


Although the majority of Centaurs are thought to have originated in the scattered disk, with the high-inclination members coming from the Oort cloud, the origin of the high inclination component of trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) remains uncertain. We report the discovery of a retrograde TNO, which we nickname "Niku", detected by the Pan-STARRS 1 Outer Solar System Survey. Our numerical integrations show that the orbital dynamics of Niku are very similar to that of 2008 KV42 (Drac), with a half-life of ∼500 Myr. Comparing similar high inclination TNOs and Centaurs (q>10 AU, a<100 and="" au="" i="">60∘), we find that these objects exhibit a surprising clustering of ascending node, and occupy a common orbital plane. This orbital configuration has high statistical significance: 3.8-σ. An unknown mechanism is required to explain the observed clustering. This discovery may provide a pathway to investigate a possible reservoir of high-inclination objects.

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