Good news! Three space telescopes, including Hubble, have combined their celestial powers to spot a moon orbiting a dwarf planet in the Kuiper Belt — the region beyond Neptune where Pluto and countless other icy bodies live. According to NASA, the dwarf planet’s moon has a lot to teach scientists about how moons formed in the early solar system — but sadly, it has no name. Its planet’s name, on the other hand, is garbage — 2007 OR10 and its satellite friend desperately need some rebranding.
Image: NASA, ESA, C. Kiss (Konkoly Observatory), and J. Stansberry (STScI)
One thing 2007 OR10 has going for it is that it’s the third-largest confirmed dwarf planet, behind Pluto and Eris, which both have badarse names. Other recognised dwarf planets include Makemake, Haumea, Ceres and Sedna. A team of researchers first spotted 2007 OR10’s moon in two separate Hubble archival images before following up with other telescopes, and their findings have been published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
“The discovery of satellites around all of the known large dwarf planets — except for Sedna — means that at the time these bodies formed billions of years ago, collisions must have been more frequent, and that’s a constraint on the formation models,” Csaba Kiss of the Konkoly Observatory in Budapest, the study’s lead author, said in a statement. “If there were frequent collisions, then it was quite easy to form these satellites.”
The most exciting part of this discovery is that it suggests all objects in the Kuiper Belt larger than 1000km across probably harbour satellites. That information may help scientists better understand conditions in the early solar system, as this region contains objects that are roughly 4.6 billion years old.
Sure, all the science stuff is cool, but really, what the hell should we name this moon? Do your worst, internet — and don’t say Moony McMoonFace because I ALREADY MADE THAT JOKE.