Strange Activity Spotted on a Centaur: What Should You Know

activity on distant planetary object

The centaurs, one of the most intriguing cosmic bodies ever discovered, are minor planets probably born in the Kuiper Belt. Astronomers found that centaurs have comet-like traits, including a coma and a tail, that orbit in an area between Neptune and Jupiter. It is freezing there for water to sublimate from a solid to a gas, so any activities are also scarce.

But that’s about to change. Thanks to a team of astronomers, we have new information about a centaur’s behavior.

Here is what you need to know. 

Centaur 2014 OG392 in the Spotlight

The team, supervised by Colin Chandler, made quite the discovery.Chandler is a doctoral student and Presidential Fellow in the Northern Arizona University’s Astronomy and Planetary Science Ph.D. project.

Apparently, Centaur 2014 OG392 is quite active, and astronomers succeeded in capturing that.

2014 OG392 is a distant planetary object first spotted in 2014. Astronomers didn’t expect such behavior from this centaur. The team’s findings now shed light on previous research.

The team’s work

Astronomers developed an intriguing database search algorithm to find archival pictures of the Centaur 2014 OG392, as well as a follow-up survey campaign. They also utilized the Dark Energy Camera at the Inter-American Observatory in Cerro Tololo, Chole, the Large Monolithic Imager at Lowell Observatory’s Discovery Channel Telescope in Happy Jack, Ariz, and the Walter Baade Telescope at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. 

Chandler released the first statement. He said:

“We detected a coma as far as 400,000 km from 2014 OG392 […]; our analysis of sublimation processes and dynamical lifetime suggest carbon dioxide and/or ammonia are the most likely candidates for causing activity on this and other active Centaurs.”

A New Comet

The team classified Centaur 2014 OG392 as a comet, naming it C/ 2014 OG392 (PANSTARSS). The previously unusual object is now part of an intriguing category.

The team hopes to find out more and develop new techniques for further investigation. 

 

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