Centaurs are one of the many rare celestial entities that demonstrate features of both asteroids as well as comets. They are nothing but rocks like asteroids. However, they also emit dust and gas clouds as their external surface vaporizes, like comets.
Centaurs are deemed active when they emit out gases. Till date, only 18 chemically active centaurs have been discovered. Now, a new one has made it to this list. It may provide us with more info regarding these rare flying rocks and their distinct characteristics. Observing centaurs is a great challenge as they are located far away and have irregular orbits. Finding them requires spending a good amount of time with a telescope. But recently, space gazers perused archival images alongside fresh data collected from the Dark Energy Camera at the Inter-American Observatory and the Walter Baade Telescope at the Las Campanas Observatory, both located in Chile, and the Large Monolithic Imager at Lowell Observatory’s Discovery Channel Telescope, located in Arizona.
Astronomer Colin Chandler, from the Northern Arizona University says. “We used a new method that integrated observational measurements such as colour, and dust mass with models to study such characteristics as the object’s volatile sublimation and orbital motions”. This new method, involving a uniquely formed algorithm to look for traces of any activity in existing space imagery, put forth proof of Centaur 2014 OG392. It was phasing solids into gases (sublimation) and left behind a huge comet-like halo.
In the past two years, new recorded observations indicated that this particular centaur was one of a kind. The astronomers then utilized computer modelling to find out the different types of ice that might be evaporating from the rock. It’s a difficult estimation to be done, not because the centaur is probably not composed of a single type of ice but of a combination of various materials that can all sublime differently.
Chandler stated that they found a ‘Coma’ at a distance of 400,000 km [248,548 miles] from 2014 OG392. Their analysis of sublimation processes and haphazard lifetime indicate that carbon dioxide and/or ammonia are mainly responsible for causing activity on the new and other active centaurs. A coma is essentially a covering of ice and dust from comet. It envelopes the comet’s nucleus as it swings close to the Sun. The coma is responsible for the fuzzy appearance of a comet.
Due to this discovery, the centaur has been officially deemed as a comet and removed from the list of centaurs. It is now renamed as C/2014 OG392 (PANSTARRS). The researchers are very excited about it. These centaurs and others entities alike, are assumed to have shown no changes since the beginning of the Solar System. What it means is that they’re potentially useful for studying how formation of planets and their confinement to their orbits occurred.
We still need to study more about centaurs and their activity. Gathering more info and developing better methods of analysis can enable us to unfold some of the mysteries surrounding these weird and wonderful Solar System entities. The latest research was published in Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Comet, Asteroid, Centaur, Astronomy
World news – GB – One of the centaurs is demonstrating its cometary traits.