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OUTER PLANETS
Neptune's movement from the inner to the outer solar system was smooth and calm
by Brooks Hays
Washington (UPI) Apr 4, 2017


New research suggests Neptune's transition from the inner to the outer solar system was relatively slow and steady. The clues to the nature of Neptune's ancient move were discovered in the Kuiper belt, a massive ring of space debris -- mostly icy fragments -- lying beyond Neptune's orbit.

Most of the millions of objects in the Kuiper belt are red in color, but a minority of objects are blue. The blue orbs exist in pairs and orbit one another. They're called blue binaries.

Until now, astronomers assumed the blue binaries formed in the Kuiper belt. But the latests analysis suggests the odd pairs were born closer to the sun and followed Neptune's path, ending up in the Kuiper belt.

The fact that the binary pairs weren't separated by the move suggests Neptune's transition was a calm and smooth one.

"This research has opened the window to new aspects of understanding the early stages of planet growth," Wes Fraser, an astronomer at Queen's University Belfast, said in a news release. "We now have a solid handle on how and where these blue binaries originated."

If blue binaries are indeed interlopers, they may hold clues to the nature of parts of the universe now devoid of objects.

The discovery was made possible by a pair of powerful telescopes.

"This novel program uses two world-class telescopes: the Gemini-North and Canada-France-Hawaii telescopes, simultaneously," Fraser explained. "In doing so, we are able to gather comprehensive spectral information spanning the ultra-violet, optical, and near-infrared wavelength ranges."

Researchers published the findings in the journal Nature Astronomy.

OUTER PLANETS
New Horizons Halfway from Pluto to Next Flyby Target
Washington DC (SPX) Apr 04, 2017
How time and our spacecraft fly - especially when you're making history at 32,000 miles (51,500 kilometers) per hour. Continuing on its path through the outer regions of the solar system, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has now traveled half the distance from Pluto - its storied first target - to 2014 MU69, the Kuiper Belt object (KBO) it will fly past on Jan. 1, 2019. The spacecraft reache ... read more

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