Who said that scientists know everything there is to know about our own cosmic backyard? There’s no denying that humanity has made some significant progress during the last decades in understanding the solar system. But things get pretty weird near the outskirts of our planetary neighborhood.
A piece of a moon orbiting another object has been found in the far regions of the solar system by astronomers two years ago, and only now their study has been accepted for Astronomy & Astrophysics.
Dwarf planet (84522) 2002 TC302 is the culprit
(84522) 2002 TC302 is the cosmic object sporting the little moon. Astronomers had been collecting a lot of data for the dwarf planet, and they concluded that it has a diameter of around 584 kilometers (363 miles), as well as an orbital period of 417 years.
As Wikipedia reveals, the rotation period of the dwarf planet was initially estimated by Thirouin et al. to be 5.41 h. The estimation was made based on the light-curve amplitude of 0.04±0.01 mag. This short rotation period was an alias due to a bias for shorter and more discernable shorter periods.
Orbit and classification
2002 TC302 will come to perihelion in almost forty years: in 2058. Its minimum distance from the Sun of 39.1 AU is about the same as the semi-major axis of Pluto (which means the average distance from the Sun). The dwarf planet is classified as a scattered disc object.
There are numerous moons in our solar system, besides the one that represents the brightest from our night sky. There’s a total number of 200 moons in our solar system, and most of them are orbiting Saturn: 82 pieces. Jupiter comes as the second planet with the most moons: 79. This is a little surprising, considering that Jupiter is bigger than Saturn, but the Universe doesn’t care about our human comprehension. We have to obey the Universe’s laws (namely the laws of physics), as the Universe doesn’t have to obey our own laws and caprices.