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Astronomers find the missing link in planet formation

29 Jan 2019, 09:49 UTC
Astronomers find the missing link in planet formation
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The detection of this object was made using a technique called “occultation”. Image credit: Ko Arimatsu
For the first time ever, astronomers have detected a 1.3 kilometre (0.8 mile) radius body at the edge of the Solar System. Kilometre sized bodies like the one discovered have been predicted to exist for more than 70 years. These objects acted as an important step in the planet formation process between small initial amalgamations of dust and ice and the planets we see today.
The Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt is a collection of small celestial bodies located beyond Neptune’s orbit. The most famous Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt Object is Pluto. Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt Objects are believed to be remnants left over from the formation of the Solar System. While small bodies like asteroids in the inner Solar System have been altered by solar radiation, collisions, and the gravity of the planets over time; objects in the cold, dark, lonely Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt preserve the pristine conditions of the early Solar System. Thus astronomers study them to learn about the beginning of the planet formation process.
This discovery supports the theory of planet formation that kilometre sized objects are first formed before the merging into larger, planet sized objects. Image ...

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