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A Sedna-like body with a perihelion of 80 astronomical units

Nature volume 507, pages 471474 (27 March 2014) | Download Citation

Abstract

The observable Solar System can be divided into three distinct regions: the rocky terrestrial planets including the asteroids at 0.39 to 4.2 astronomical units (au) from the Sun (where 1 au is the mean distance between Earth and the Sun), the gas giant planets at 5 to 30 au from the Sun, and the icy Kuiper belt objects at 30 to 50 au from the Sun. The 1,000-kilometre-diameter dwarf planet Sedna was discovered ten years ago and was unique in that its closest approach to the Sun (perihelion) is 76 au, far greater than that of any other Solar System body1. Formation models indicate that Sedna could be a link between the Kuiper belt objects and the hypothesized outer Oort cloud at around 10,000 au from the Sun2,3,4,5,6. Here we report the presence of a second Sedna-like object, 2012 VP113, whose perihelion is 80 au. The detection of 2012 VP113 confirms that Sedna is not an isolated object; instead, both bodies may be members of the inner Oort cloud, whose objects could outnumber all other dynamically stable populations in the Solar System.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) team for obtaining observations during DECam commissioning, D. Norman for scheduling the November 2012 DECam observations, and D. Norman, A. Kunder and K. Holhjem for queue observing in November. T. Abbott and F. Valdes were very helpful during our December 2012 DECam observations. This project used data obtained with DECam, which was constructed by the Dark Energy Survey collaborating institutions. Observations were in part obtained at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, National Optical Astronomy Observatory, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, under contract with the National Science Foundation. This paper includes data gathered with the 6.5-m Magellan telescopes located at Las Campanas Observatory, Chile. This research was funded by NASA Planetary Astronomy grant NNX12AG26G and has also been supported by the Gemini Observatory, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., on behalf of the international Gemini partnership of Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile and the USA.

Author information

Author notes

    • Chadwick A. Trujillo
    •  & Scott S. Sheppard

    These authors contributed equally to this work.

Affiliations

  1. Gemini Observatory, 670 North A‘ohoku Place, Hilo, Hawaii 96720, USA

    • Chadwick A. Trujillo
  2. Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Institution for Science, 5241 Broad Branch Road NW, Washington DC 20015, USA

    • Scott S. Sheppard

Authors

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Contributions

C.T. created the moving object detection program for image analysis, developed the discovery statistic simulations, and is the principal investigator of the NASA grant supporting the project. S.S. obtained the telescope time, planned and performed the observations, analysed the data (including the colour measurements) and estimated the inner Oort cloud object orbital evolution using the Mercury integrator.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Chadwick A. Trujillo.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nature13156

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