Arrokoth and the many mysteries of the primordial sky

There is a distant, dim domain of eternal twilight at the outer reaches of our Solar System, where our Sun can shine softly with only a dim, weak fire. This remote region is called Kuiper belt, and is home to the dwarf planet Pluto, its large frigid moon Charon, and a host of other icy objects including a dancing sea of ​​icy comet nuclei. Fragile and ephemeral, the approaching comets in the brilliant light and molten heat of our Star are the refugees fleeing this remote region of perpetual twilight. In February 2020, NASA planetary scientists new Horizons mission to Pluto, and beyond, announced that data collected from this mission is providing new insights into how planets and planetesimals–the building blocks of the planets–were born in our primordial Solar System. Tea new Horizons the spaceship soared past the ancient Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) Arrokoth (2014 MU 69) on January 1, 2019, giving humanity its first up-close look at one of those mysterious icy relics from the birth of our Solar System nearly five billion years ago.

Using detailed data about of Arrokoth shape, geology, color and composition, collected during an unprecedented flyby that took place more than 4,000,000,000 miles from Earth, planetary scientists announced in February 2020 that they have been able to answer a long-standing question about planetesimal origins, and thus have made a breakthrough in our understanding of how planets came to be. The team reports those findings in a set of three articles published in the February 13, 2020, issue of the journal. Sciences. The scientists also presented their findings at a press conference held at the annual event American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting in Seattle, Washington.

486958Arrokoth is the provisional name of 2014 MU 69has transneptunian object. It’s a binary contact22 miles long, formed by a primordial ice duo planetesimals which measure 13 miles and 9 miles wide. Both planetesimals have been nicknamed Latest Y thulerespectively, and are joined along their main axes. Latest is flatter than thule, and is actually an aggregate of 8 or more smaller objects, each about 3 miles across. These smaller objects are thought to have merged earlier Latest Y thule put and merge together. Because there have apparently been no, or very few, catastrophic impacts on Arrokoth since it formed, its formation history has been preserved in the deep freeze of our Solar System, far from the molten heat of our roiling star.

Arrokoth it is both the most distant and most primitive object in our Solar System to be visited by a spacecraft. It was discovered on June 26, 2014 by Dr. Marc Bule and the new Horizons Search team using the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) as part of a hunt KBO which would become the goal of new Horizons on his first extended mission. This discovery required the use of the HST because, with an apparent magnitude of only 26, Arrokoth it is too faint to see except by the most powerful telescopes. Tea HST it also has the ability to perform extremely accurate astrometry. This means that it can provide a reliable determination of an orbit.

Arrokoth was chosen over two other candidates KBOand so it became the fate of New Horizons’ extended mission beyond Pluto. With an orbital period of about 298 years and low orbital inclination and eccentricity, Arrokoth is designated a cold classic KBO.

The provisional name Arrokoth comes from the Powhatan region of Virginia and Maryland, where of Arrokoth discovery occurred. Tea HST Y Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory both operate in Maryland and are primarily responsible for of Arrokoth 2014 discovery.

pluto and beyond

On July 14, 2015, after his perilous decade-long odyssey through space, new Horizons achieved its main objective in the Kuiper belt–tea ice dwarf planet Pluto and its family of five icy moons, including its large moon Charon, which is nearly half the size of Pluto. new HorizonsAfter successfully making its historic closest approach to the Pluto system, it sent Earth some revealing images of this faraway little world with a big heart.

For most of the 20th century, astronomers considered Pluto a lonely little world, where it dwells in the outer domain of our Solar System. However, this view changed in 1992, when a second KBO was discovered in this region. Because of this discovery, planetary scientists realized that Pluto is far from alone in this remote frozen region of perpetual twilight. In fact, Pluto orbits our star in the company of a myriad of others of its mysterious and frigid ilk. Since 1992, astronomers have discovered a multitude of other small, rocky worlds, very similar to Pluto, in search of these distant bodies. Some of the other distant inhabitants of our Solar System’s deep freeze also orbit our star in eccentric orbits, just like Pluto. Tea dwarf planet eris is one of the most important of these scattered disk objects. Discovered in 2005, eris it’s slightly more massive than Pluto, and its discovery is what forced planetary scientists to realize that Pluto is simply one of many. As a result, at the time, poor little Pluto was unceremoniously evicted from the pantheon of major planets, and is now classified as a ice dwarf–a mother dwarf planet, objective has planet nevertheless. Before that, Pluto was ranked as the ninth major planet from our star.

KBO they are generally believed to be made up primarily of a combination of ice and rock. Tea Kuiper belt extends from the orbit of Neptune to about 50 astronomical units (AU). A A is equal to the average distance between the Earth and the Sun, which is approximately 93,000,000 miles. The average distance from Neptune to our star is approximately 30.1 A–its perihelion (when it is closest to our Star) is 29.8 Awhile his aphelion (when it is farthest from our Star) is 30.4 A.

After completing its primary mission of a flyby of Pluto and its moons, the New Horizon spacecraft was maneuvered for its future flight over the distant Arrokoth.

Arrokoth and its many mysteries

ArrokothAs the most remote, primitive, and purest object ever explored by spacecraft, it has a unique story to tell. This small, remote object has allowed planetary scientists to make important progress in their understanding of how planets formed in the primordial Solar System. The first post-flyby images obtained from new Horizons in 2019 revealed that Arrokoth it actually consists of two interconnected blades with smooth surfaces, as well as the same composition. This indicates that it is most likely a pristine object, and as such provides valuable information about how it formed.

These exciting new finds contribute to the many historic achievements of an important mission. NASA discoveries obtained from new Horizons they have improved our knowledge and understanding of how planetary bodies came into being in our Solar System, as well as in distant planetary systems beyond our own.

In the future, the new Horizons the team plans to use data with higher resolution. The scientists also plan to use sophisticated supercomputer simulations to create models of how Arrokoth It could have formed billions of years ago.

Their analysis has already revealed that of Arrokoth The “binary contact” lobes were originally two separate objects, orbiting close to each other at slow speeds. Ultimately, the duo gently collided and merged to form the 22mm body observed by New Horizons.

This information indicates that Arrokoth was born during the gravitational collapse of clouds of solid particles in the original primordial sun nebula that gave rise to our Sun and its family of planets, moons, and other objects about 4.56 billion years ago. In dramatic contrast to a high-speed collision and hierarchical accumulation, the particles that created Arrokoth they merged smoothly as the cloud collapsed. This indicates that Arrokoth, and other similar objects that inhabited the ancient Solar System, gradually increased in size to form larger and larger bodies. In a way that has been compared to the way fossils show the way species evolved on our own planet, persisting planetesimals I like it Arrokoth reveal how planets in our own Solar System, and beyond, evolved.

Arrokoth It wouldn’t look like it did if it had formed as a result of a violent collision in our primordial Solar System. Instead, the evidence indicates that it was formed as a result of a more complex and gentle ballet in which the two dancers planetesimals they slowly orbited each other before their dance gravitationally pulled them both together, thus forming the two individual lobes planetesimal observed today.

Two other important lines of evidence support this scenario. The uniform surface composition and color of Arrokoth reveal that it formed from materials that danced very close to each other, as predicted by local collapse patterns within clouds. This contrasts with a model that indicates that it formed from material located in regions more separated from the primordial nucleus. sun nebula.

In addition, the flattened shape of each of of Arrokoth two lobes, as well as its very close polar and equator alignment, indicate that it was born in an orderly cradle. Also, of Arrokoth The smooth surface suggests that its face has been well preserved in the dark, deep freeze of our Solar System since the end of the era of planet formation. This means that Arrokoth shows physical properties indicating that it formed as a result of the gradual and smooth fusion of objects that formed close to each other in the sun nebula.

The three articles published in the February 13, 2020 issue of the magazine Sciences they are based on ten times more data than the first reports that were published about the new findings. Together, the documents provide a more complete description of of Arrokoth mysterious origins.

new Horizons keep observing objects dancing in the distance Kuiper belt. In the summer of 2020, the new Horizons team plans to use a large telescope on Earth to search for more KBO that can be studied, and also search for other potential targets for the spacecraft.

As of this writing, the new Horizons The spacecraft is 7.1 billion kilometers from Earth. It still functions normally, as it soars through this uncharted, frigid twilight region at speeds of nearly 50,400 kilometers per hour.

Principal Investigator of New Horizons Dr. Alan Stern explained his reasons for giving Arrokoth your name:

“Name ‘Arrokoth’ reflects the inspiration of looking to the heavens and wondering about the stars and the worlds beyond our own. That desire to learn is at the heart of the New Horizons’ mission, and we are honored to join the Powhatan community and the people of Maryland in this celebration of discovery.”

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