A team of “very excited” astronomers has discovered activity around a rare type of space object that has asteroid-like rocks, but is also cloudy in comet-like dust and gas.
These extraordinary celestial bodies are called centaurs from Greek mythology as half-human and half-horse creatures. They are actually small planets and appeared in the icy Khyber belt at the edge of our solar system.
Objects are incredibly rare – in fact, although astronomers have scanned the sky relentlessly, only 18 active centers have been found since 1927. They are dizzy, moving very far and in unusual ways and very difficult to observe. Because of this they are not properly understood.
Despite these obstacles, a team of scientists from the University of Northern Arizona developed a new technique to monitor a centaur called 2014 OG392 and made a significant discovery.
The team developed an algorithm to scan functional traces on existing images from space. This helped to observe the 2014 conversion of OG392 solids into gases – this is called sublimation – and leaves a longer, comet-like halo.
The next step in this process is to find out what kind of ice may be burning from the rock to create the halo using computer modeling. Carbon dioxide and ammonia were often identified as candidates in the investigation.
This was a significant turning point, as a result of which the 2014 OG392 elevated its centaur status to that of an absolute comet. It has a new name and now goes by the active moniker C / 2014 OG392 (PANSTARRS).
“I am very pleased that the Minor Planet Center has given a new comet name in line with the function we have discovered in this extraordinary object.” Leading researcher Colin Chandler said.
Such space bodies are believed to have existed until the dawn of the solar system, and are thought to have remained unchanged for billions of years. Experts hope that reading them will shed light on how the planets, including Earth, came to be.
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