Two groups of Trans-Neptunian Objects have very different orbital patterns

Data collected can be used to provide new insights into the evolution of the Kuiper Belt, and the larger solar system.


Trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) are any objects in the solar system that have an orbit beyond Neptune. They are the fossils from the early days of the solar system, telling us a lot about its formation and evolution.

Recently, scientists discovered two groups of TNOs with different surface colors also have very different orbital patterns. The study, led by Mohamad Ali-Dib, a research scientist at the NYU Abu Dhabi Center for Astro, Particle, and Planetary Physics, paves the way for further understanding of the formation of the Kuiper Belt itself.

TNOs are usually either deemed ‘Less Red’ or ‘Very Red’ (often referred to as Red) based on their surface colors. However, while analyzing a 2019 data set, scientists found that both TNOs have different orbital patterns. More calculations determined that the two groups of TNOs formed in other locations, leading to the dichotomy in both their orbits and colors.

Until now, many models have been developed to study the evolution of the Kuiper Belt. However, these models only study the origins of its orbital structure or colors, not both simultaneously.

Ali-Dib said, “With more data, our team’s work could be applied to more detailed solar system models and has the potential to reveal new insights about the solar system and how it has changed over time.”

Journal Reference:
  1. Mohamad Ali-Dib et al., The Rarity of Very Red Trans-Neptunian Objects in the Scattered Disk, The Astronomical Journal (2021). DOI: 10.3847/1538-3881/abf6ca
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