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Forming Icy Super-Earths in the Cold

9 Feb 2015, 22:00 UTC
Forming Icy Super-Earths in the Cold
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Sedna, 2012 VP113 and several other objects belong to an intriguing population of small, icy worlds that orbit the Sun far beyond Pluto. These objects never come closer to the Sun than Neptune and have semimajor axis (i.e. the “average” distance from the Sun) greater than 150 AU. They are believed to be just a tiny fraction of a vast population of similar objects lurking in the dark far from the Sun. Observations of the orbits of these objects reveal a clustering of their arguments of perihelion around 0°. Such a distribution is statistically unlikely and suggests the presence of one or more super-Earths at 200 to 300 AU from the Sun “shepherding” the orbits of these objects.Figure 1: Artist’s impression of an object orbiting far from the Sun.However, the presence of one or more super-Earths at large distances from the Sun is not supported by the current understanding of planet formation which cannot account for the in-situ formation of such massive objects so far from a Sun-like star. Nonetheless, a recent study suggests it might be possible for one or more super-Earths to form in-situ at distances of around 125 to 250 AU from a Sun-like star. Unlike a ...

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