Centaurs are minor planets believed to originate from the Kuiper Belt in the outer solar system. They sometimes have comet-like features like tails and comas – clouds of dust particles and gas – although they orbit in a region between Jupiter and Neptune where it’s too cold for water to easily sublimate or pass directly from a solid to a gas.
A team of astronomers led by PhD student and President Colin Chandler of Northern Arizona University’s PhD Program in Astronomy and Planetary Sciences announced earlier this year the discovery of activity emanating from Centaur 2014 OG392, a planetary object first found in 2014 findings an article in The astrophysical diary letters, “Comet Activity Detected on a Distant Centaur: A Non-Aqueous Sublimation Mechanism.” Chandler is the lead author and collaborates with four NAU co-authors, PhD student Jay Kueny, Associate Professor Chad Trujillo, Professor David Trilling, and PhD student William Oldroyd.
The team’s research included developing a database search algorithm to locate archive images of the centaur, as well as an observation campaign.
“Our article reports on the discovery of activity emanating from Centaur 2014 OG392 based on archive images we discovered,” said Chandler, “as well as our own new observational evidence obtained with the Dark Energy Camera at the Inter-American Observatory in Cerro Tololo, Chile. the Walter Baade Telescope at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile; and the large monolithic imager at the Discovery Channel Telescope at Lowell Observatory in Happy Jack, Arizona. ”
“We detected a coma up to 400,000 km from 2014 OG392,” he said, “and our analysis of the sublimation processes and dynamic lifespan suggest that carbon dioxide and / or ammonia are the most likely candidates for the activity of this and other active centaurs. “” ”
“We have developed a novel technique,” said Chandler, “combining observational measurements, such as color and dust mass, with modeling efforts to estimate properties such as volatile sublimation and orbital dynamics of the object.”
As a result of the team’s discovery, the centaur was recently classified as a comet and is referred to as “C / 2014 OG392 (PANSTARRS)”.
“I am very pleased that the Minor Planet Center has given a new comet name to reflect the activity we have discovered on this unusual object,” he said.
This week, Chandler was invited to present the results at the 52nd Division of Planetary Sciences (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) 2020 meeting.
Materials provided by Northern Arizona University. Note: the content can be edited by style and length.
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