The New Horizons probe has clarified the hypothesis of planet formation


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The New Horizons probe has clarified the hypothesis of planet formation

On January 1, 2019, the American New Horizons automatic interplanetary station flew near the body of the 2014 Kuiper belt MU69. Now New Horizons continues its flight. It is assumed that in 2020 the spacecraft will be able to fly in relative proximity to another object in the Kuiper belt, if it is enough for this fuel.

The transfer of all data collected on January 1, 2019 is still ongoing: it is expected to take 20 months. Previously, scientists called the body of 2014 MU69 the name Ultima Thule (“Beyond the End of the World”), but in November 2019, at the proposal of NASA, the International Astronomical Union gave it the name Arrokot.

For humanity, the outer solar system remains a very poorly studied space. Some planets were visited by spacecraft only once, about many satellites of giant planets, scientists have very vague ideas. We know almost nothing about the bodies of the Kuiper belt and the alleged "ninth planet", the existence of which astronomers predict.

Arrokot is the most distant object in the solar system, explored using an interplanetary station. It consists of two cores: a larger oblate and a more spherical small. The total body length is 36 km, width – 10 km. The orbit of Arrokota is located at a distance of 6.6 billion km from the orbit of the Earth, it makes one revolution around the Sun in 293 Earth years. Also, 2014 MU69 is a fairly primitive object, formed at an early stage in the development of the Solar System 4.5 billion years ago. Using his example, scientists can understand the mechanisms of formation of planetesimals – celestial bodies, from which protoplanets subsequently form when heated. Some planetesimals stop growing before the substance in their center begins to heat under pressure. It is to such objects that Arrokot belongs.

Scientists have two theories of the formation of planetesimals. One of them is a dust cloud collapse model. According to this theory, particles of matter gradually gather in a lump under the influence of gravitational forces. The second model is called hierarchical accretion, and it assumes that planetesimals grow by colliding objects at high speeds.

All data collected by the Hew Horizons support the theory of dust cloud collapse. The first article about this, based on modeling data, was published back in May 2019, but additional high-resolution images processed since then confirmed the initial research. There are no cracks on Arrocot, such as cracks and deformations. Scientists believe that the two objects that make up Arrokot collided with each other at the speed of a “quick step,” that is, 5-10 km per hour. In addition, there are no differences in surface color and chemical composition of both halves, which means that they formed under similar conditions and in one place.

Another evidence that Arrokot formed in calm conditions is its form. Both halves of the body are flattened the same way, i.e. their equators were in the same plane during the formation process.

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