Three space observatories, of which NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is one, have uncovered a moon that orbits the third largest dwarf planet. 2007 OR10 resides in the outskirts of our solar system, in a place labeled as Kuiper Belt, a terrain of icy debris that supposedly remains from our planet’s formation process, nearly 4.6 billion years ago.
Majority of Large Dwarf Planets Feature a Satellite
With this new finding, it was also found that a majority of the recognized large dwarf planets (except Sedna) have satellites. This sheds light on the fact that at the time of the formation of these planets billions of years ago, the frequency of collisions must have been high. “The occurrence of frequent collisions explains the inevitable formation of these satellites,” according to the lead author of the research paper announcing the discovery.
Gravitational Disturbance Dating Back to Earth’s Formation Might Have Been Responsible for Formation of Satellites
It is believed that a high concentration of objects was responsible for the increase in collisions. The high density of objects included vast bodies that displaced smaller ones. The resultant gravitational disturbance might have propelled several spatial bodies out of their orbits, accelerating their relative velocities and thus resulting in collisions. However, astronomers suggest that the speed of the colliding bodies was neither very fast nor very slow, or the satellites could not have formed.
Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 took the archival images of 2007 OR10. The team noticed the moon in two different observations that are spaced a year apart. The images convey that the moon is bound by a gravitational force to 2007 OR10, due to the fact that it keeps moving in harmony with the dwarf planet, against a backdrop of stars spread in the vicinity.