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(225088) 2007 OR10, proposed to be named Gonggong, is a likely dwarf planet in the Solar System beyond Neptune, and is a member of the scattered disc. It has a highly eccentric and inclined orbit during which it ranges from 33–101 astronomical units (4.9–15.1 billion kilometers) from the Sun. (As of 2019), its distance from the Sun is 88 AU (1.32×1010 km; 8.2×109 mi), and it is the sixth-farthest known Solar System object. 2007 OR10 is in a 3:10 orbital resonance with Neptune, in which it completes three orbits around the Sun for every ten orbits completed by Neptune. 2007 OR10 was discovered in July 2007 by American astronomers Megan Schwamb, Michael Brown, and David Rabinowitz at the Palomar Observatory, and the discovery was announced in January 2009. At 1,230 km (760 mi) in diameter, 2007 OR10 is approximately the size of Pluto's moon Charon, and is the fifth-largest known trans-Neptunian object in the Solar System. It is sufficiently massive to be gravitationally rounded, thereby qualifying for dwarf planet status. Its large mass also makes retention of a tenuous atmosphere of methane just possible, though such an atmosphere would slowly escape into space. 2007 OR10 is currently the largest known body in the Solar System without an official name, but in 2019, the discoverers hosted an online poll for the general public to help choose a name for the object, and the name Gonggong won. The winning name is derived from Gonggong, a Chinese water god responsible for chaos, floods and the tilt of the Earth. 2007 OR10 is red in color, likely due to the presence of organic compounds called tholins on its surface. Water ice is also present on its surface, which hints at a brief period of cryovolcanic activity in the distant past. 2007 OR10 rotates slowly compared to other trans-Neptunian objects, which typically have rotation periods less than 12 hours, which may be due to its natural satellite, provisionally designated S/2010 (225088) 1.

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Table of Contents

    1. History

    1.1. Discovery

    2007 OR10 was discovered using the Samuel Oschin telescope at Palomar Observatory. https://handwiki.org/wiki/index.php?curid=1192500

    2007 OR10 was discovered by American astronomers Megan Schwamb, Michael Brown and David Rabinowitz on 17 July 2007.[1] The discovery was part of the Palomar Distant Solar System Survey, a survey conducted to find distant objects in the region of Sedna, beyond 50 astronomical unit|AU (7.5×109 km; 4.6×109 mi) from the Sun, using the Samuel Oschin telescope at Palomar Observatory near San Diego, California .[2][3][4] The survey was designed to detect the movements of objects out to at least 1,000 AU from the Sun.[4] Schwamb identified 2007 OR10 by comparing multiple images using the blinking technique.[3] In the discovery images, 2007 OR10 appeared to move slowly, suggesting that it is a distant object.[3][5] The discovery was part of Schwamb's doctoral thesis. At that time, Schwamb was a graduate student of Michael Brown at the California Institute of Technology.[3][6]

    2007 OR10 was formally announced in a Minor Planet Electronic Circular on 7 January 2009.[7] It was then given the provisional designation 2007 OR10 because it was discovered during the second half of July 2007.[7] The last letter and numbers of its designation indicate that it is the 267th object discovered during the latter half of July.[8] (As of April 2017), it has been observed 230 times over 13 oppositions, and has been identified in two precovery images, with the earliest image taken by the La Silla Observatory on 19 August 1985.[1][9]

    1.2. Naming

    (As of 2019), 2007 OR10 is the largest known object in the Solar System without an official name.[10] Initially after the discovery of 2007 OR10, Brown nicknamed the object "Snow White" for its presumed white color based on his assumption that it may be a member of the icy Haumea collisional family.[11][12] The nickname also fitted because, by that time, Brown's team had discovered seven other large trans-Neptunian objects which were collectively referred to as the "seven dwarfs":[13] Quaoar in 2002, Sedna in 2003, Haumea, Salacia and Orcus in 2004, and Makemake and Eris in 2005. However, 2007 OR10 turned out to be very red in color, comparable to Quaoar, so the nickname was dropped.[5][11] On 2 November 2009, two years after its discovery, the Minor Planet Center assigned the minor planet number 225088 to 2007 OR10.[9]

    Upon the discovery and announcement of 2007 OR10, Brown did not consider naming it, as he regarded it to be an unremarkable object, despite its large size.[12][14] Brown later declared in 2011 that he now had enough information to justify giving it a name, in consideration of the discovery of water ice and the possibility of methane on its surface, which made it noteworthy enough to warrant further study.[6] Following the Kepler spacecraft's large revision of 2007 OR10's size in 2016, Schwamb justified that 2007 OR10 was eligible for naming, an acknowledgement of its large size and that the characteristics of 2007 OR10 were known with enough certainty for a name to be given to reflect them.[10]

    In 2019, the discoverers of 2007 OR10 hosted an online poll for the general public to choose between three possible names: Gonggong (Chinese), Holle (German), and Vili (Norse). These were selected by the discoverers in accordance with the International Astronomical Union's (IAU's) minor planet naming criteria, which state that objects with orbits like that of 2007 OR10 must be given names related to mythological figures that are associated with creation.[15][16] The three options were chosen because they were associated with water, ice, snow, and the color red—all characteristics of 2007 OR10—and because they had associated figures that could later provide a name for 2007 OR10's satellite.[17] The satellite would not be named by the hosts of the naming poll, as this privilege is reserved for its discoverers.[15][18]

    On 29 May 2019, the discovery team announced Gonggong as the winning name, it having gained 46 percent of the 280,000 votes casted.[18] The name has been proposed to the IAU's Committee on Small Body Nomenclature, which is responsible for naming minor planets.[18] In Chinese mythology, the water god Gonggong is depicted as having a red-haired human head and the body of a serpent. Gonggong was responsible for creating chaos, causing flooding, and tilting the Earth, and was sent into exile.[15][18]

    2. Physical Characteristics

    2.1. Surface and Spectra

    Artist's impression of 2007 OR10 depicting its red surface color. https://handwiki.org/wiki/index.php?curid=1663931

    The surface of 2007 OR10 has an albedo (reflectivity) of 0.14.[19] The surface composition and spectrum of 2007 OR10 is expected to be similar to that of Quaoar, as both objects are red in color and display signs of water ice and possibly methane in their spectra.[20][21] The reflectance spectrum of 2007 OR10 was first measured in 2011 at near-infrared wavelengths, with the Folded port InfraRed Echellette (FIRE) spectrograph on the Magellan Baade Telescope at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile .[22] 2007 OR10's spectrum exhibits a strong red spectral slope along with broad absorption bands at wavelengths of 1.5 μm and 2 μm, meaning that 2007 OR10 reflects more light at these wavelengths.[22] Additional photometric measurements from the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3 instrument display similar absorption bands at 1.5 μm,[22] which are characteristic features of water ice, a substance often found on large Kuiper belt objects.[23] The presence of water ice on the surface of 2007 OR10 implies a brief period of cryovolcanism in the distant past, when water erupted from its interior, deposited onto its surface, and subsequently froze.[24]

    2007 OR10 is among the reddest trans-Neptunian objects known, especially in the visible and near-infrared.[22][25] Its red color is unexpected for an object with a substantial amount of water ice on its surface,[6][24] which are typically neutral in color, hence why 2007 OR10 was initially nicknamed "Snow White".[11][12] 2007 OR10's color implies that methane is present on its surface, although it was not directly detected in the spectrum of 2007 OR10 due to the low signal-to-noise ratio of the data.[22] The presence of methane frost would account for its red color, as a result of the photolysis of methane by solar radiation and cosmic rays producing reddish organic compounds known as tholins.[22][26] Observations of 2007 OR10's near-infrared spectrum in 2015 revealed an absorption feature at 2.27 μm, indicating the presence of methanol along with its irradiation products on its surface.[27] Methanol is expected to brighten 2007 OR10's surface, although the irradiation of water ice may account for its present dark surface.[27]

    2007 OR10 is large enough to be able to retain trace amounts of volatile methane on its surface,[22] even when at its closest distance to the Sun (33.5 AU),[28] where temperatures are higher than that of Quaoar.[22] In particular, the large size of 2007 OR10 means that it is likely to retain trace amounts of other volatiles, including ammonia, carbon monoxide, and possibly nitrogen, which almost all trans-Neptunian objects lose over the course of their existence.[10][20][26] Like Quaoar, 2007 OR10 is expected to be near the mass limit at which it is able to retain those volatile materials on its surface.[6][20]

    2.2. Atmosphere

    The presence of tholins on the surface of 2007 OR10 implies the possible existence of a tenuous methane atmosphere, analogous to Quaoar.[6][24] Although 2007 OR10 occasionally comes closer to the Sun than Quaoar, where it becomes warm enough that a methane atmosphere should evaporate, its larger mass could make the retention of methane just possible.[22] During aphelion, methane along with other volatiles would condense on 2007 OR10's surface, allowing for long-term irradiation that would otherwise result in a decrease in surface albedo.[29] The lower surface albedo would contribute to the loss of highly volatile materials such as nitrogen, as a lower albedo corresponds to more light being absorbed by the surface rather than being reflected, thus resulting in greater surface heating. Hence, the nitrogen content of 2007 OR10's atmosphere is expected to be depleted to trace amounts while methane is likely retained.[29]

    2007 OR10 is thought to have had cryovolcanic activity along with a more substantial atmosphere shortly after its formation.[6][24] Such cryovolcanic activity is expected to have been brief, and the resulting atmosphere gradually escaped over time.[6][24] Volatile gases, such as nitrogen and carbon monoxide, were lost, while less volatile gases such as methane are likely to remain in its present tenuous atmosphere.[24][29]

    2.3. Size

    Size estimates
    Year Diameter Method Refs
    2010 1,752 km thermal [30]
    2011 1,200+300
    −200
     km
    best fit albedo [22]
    2012 1,280±210 km thermal [21]
    2013 1,142+647
    −467
     km
    thermal [31]
    2013 1,290 km radiometric [32]
    2016 1,535+75
    −225
     km
    thermal [26]
    2018 1,230±50 km radiometric [19]
    2007 OR10 compared to the Earth and the Moon. https://handwiki.org/wiki/index.php?curid=1601838

    As of 2019, 2007 OR10 is estimated to have a diameter of 1,230 km (760 mi), derived from radiometric measurements, its calculated mass, and assuming a density similar to other similar bodies.[19] This would make 2007 OR10 the fifth-largest trans-Neptunian object, after Pluto, Eris, Haumea and Makemake. 2007 OR10 is approximately the size of Pluto's moon Charon, although 2007 OR10's current size estimate has an uncertainty of 50 km (31 mi).[19]

    The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has not addressed the possibility of officially accepting additional dwarf planets since the acceptance of Makemake and Haumea in 2008, prior to the announcement of 2007 OR10 in 2009.[33][34] Despite not satisfying the IAU's criterion of having an absolute magnitude brighter than +1,[33][35] 2007 OR10 is large enough to be considered a dwarf planet by several astronomers.[30][32][36] Brown states that 2007 OR10 "must be a dwarf planet even if predominantly rocky", based on the 2013 radiometric measurement of 1290 km.[32] Scott Sheppard and his colleagues think that it is likely to be a dwarf planet,[36] based on its minimum possible diameter—580 km under the assumption of an albedo of 1[37]—and what was at the time the expected lower size limit of around 200 km for hydrostatic equilibrium in cold icy-rocky bodies.[36] However, Iapetus is not in equilibrium despite being 1,470 km (910 mi) in diameter, so this remains just a possibility.[38]

    In 2010, astronomer Gonzalo Tancredi initially estimated 2007 OR10 to have a very large diameter of 1,752 km (1,089 mi), though its dwarf planet status was unclear as there was no lightcurve data or other information to ascertain its size.[30] 2007 OR10 is too distant to be resolved directly; Brown placed a rough estimate of its diameter ranging from 1,000–1,500 km (620–930 mi), based on an albedo of 0.18 which was the best fit in his model.[22] A survey led by a team of astronomers using the European Space Agency's Herschel Space Observatory in 2012 determined its diameter to be 1280±210 km, based on the thermal properties of 2007 OR10 observed in the far infrared range.[21] This measurement is consistent with Brown's estimate. Later observations in 2013 using combined thermal emission data from Herschel and the Spitzer Space Telescope suggested a smaller size of 1142+647
    −467
     km
    , though this estimate had a larger range of uncertainty.[31]

    In 2016, combined observations from the Kepler spacecraft and archival thermal emission data from Herschel suggested that 2007 OR10 was much larger than previously thought, giving a size estimate of 1535+75
    −225
     km
    (954 mi) based on an assumed equator-on view and a lower estimated albedo of 0.089.[26][39] This would have made 2007 OR10 the third-largest trans-Neptunian object after Eris and Pluto, larger than Makemake (1430 km).[10][39] These observations of 2007 OR10 were part of the Kepler spacecraft's K2 mission which includes studying small Solar System bodies.[10] Subsequent measurements in 2018 revised the size of 2007 OR10 to 1230±50 km, based on the mass and density of 2007 OR10 derived from the orbit of its satellite and the discovery that the viewing direction was almost pole-on.[19] With this size estimate, 2007 OR10 is again thought to be the fifth-largest trans-Neptunian object.[19]

    2.4. Mass, Density and Rotation

    File:Kepler 2007 OR10.ogg Based on the orbit of its satellite, the mass of 2007 OR10 has been calculated to be 1.75×1021 kg (3.86×1021 lb), with a density of 1.72±0.16 g/cm3.[19] From these mass and density estimates, the size of 2007 OR10 was calculated to be about 1,230 km (760 mi), smaller than the previous 2016 size estimate of 1,535 km (954 mi).[19] Given the mass, the 2016 size estimate of 1,535 km (954 mi) would have implied an unexpectedly low (and likely erroneous) density of 0.92 g/cm3.[19]

    2007 OR10 is the fifth most massive trans-Neptunian object, after Eris, Pluto, Haumea, and Makemake.[19] It is slightly more massive and denser than Charon, which has a mass of 1.586×1021 kg (3.497×1021 lb) and a density of 1.702 g/cm3.[19][40] Due to its large size, mass, and density, 2007 OR10 is expected to be in hydrostatic equilibrium, taking the shape of a MacLaurin spheroid that is slightly flattened due to its rotation.[19][26]

    The rotation period of 2007 OR10 was first measured in March 2016, through observations of variations in its brightness with the Kepler space telescope.[26] 2007 OR10's light curve amplitude as observed by Kepler is small, only varying in brightness by about 0.09 magnitudes.[26] The small light curve amplitude of 2007 OR10 indicates that it is being viewed at a pole-on configuration, further evidenced by the observed inclined orbit of its satellite.[19] The Kepler observations provided ambiguous values of 44.81±0.37 and 22.4±0.18 hours for the rotation period.[19][26] Based on a best-fit model for its rotation pole orientation, the value of 22.4±0.18 hours is thought to be the more plausible one.[19] 2007 OR10 rotates slowly compared to other trans-Neptunian objects, which usually have rotation periods between 6 and 12 hours.[19] Due to its slow rotation, it is expected to have a low oblateness of 0.03 or 0.007, for rotation periods of 22.4 or 44.81 hours, respectively.[19]

    3. Orbit

    Polar view of the orbits of 2007 OR10, Eris, and Pluto. https://handwiki.org/wiki/index.php?curid=1363609
    Ecliptic view of the highly inclined orbits of 2007 OR10 and Eris. https://handwiki.org/wiki/index.php?curid=1806179
    A preliminary motion analysis of 2007 OR10 librating in a 3:10 resonance with Neptune. This animation consists of 16 frames covering 26,000 years.[41] Neptune (white dot) is held stationary. https://handwiki.org/wiki/index.php?curid=1773833
    Apparent motion of 2007 OR10 through the constellation Aquarius (years 2000 to 2050). https://handwiki.org/wiki/index.php?curid=1462402

    2007 OR10 orbits the Sun at an average distance of 67.4 AU (1.008×1010 km; 6.27×109 mi), and completes a full orbit in 553 years.[28] The orbit of 2007 OR10 is highly inclined to the ecliptic, with an orbital inclination 30.7 degrees.[28] Its orbit is also highly eccentric, with a measured orbital eccentricity of 0.503.[28] Due to its highly eccentric orbit, the distance of 2007 OR10 from the Sun varies greatly over the course of its orbit, from 101.3 AU (1.515×1010 km; 9.42×109 mi) at aphelion, its furthest point from the Sun, to around 33.5 AU (5.01×109 km; 3.11×109 mi) at perihelion, its closest point to the Sun.[1][28] 2007 OR10 had approached its perihelion in 1857, and is currently moving farther from the Sun, toward its aphelion.[42]

    The Minor Planet Center lists it as a scattered disc object for its eccentric and distant orbit.[43] The Deep Ecliptic Survey shows the orbit of 2007 OR10 to be in a 3:10 resonance with Neptune; 2007 OR10 completes three orbits around the Sun for every ten orbits completed by Neptune.[41]

    (As of 2019), 2007 OR10 is about 88 astronomical unit|AU (1.32×1010 km) from the Sun[44] and is moving away at a speed of 1.1 kilometers per second (2,500 miles per hour).[45] It is the sixth-farthest known Solar System object from the Sun, preceding 2015 TH367 (89.5 AU), 2014 UZ224 (90.4 AU), Eris (96.1 AU), 2018 VG18 (~ 120 AU),[46] and "FarFarOut" (~ 140 AU).[44][47] 2007 OR10 is more distant than Sedna, which is located 84.8 AU from the Sun as of July 2019.[44] It has been farther from the Sun than Sedna since 2013.[45] 2007 OR10 will be farther than both Sedna and Eris by 2045,[48] and will reach its aphelion in 2130.[45]

    3.1. Brightness

    2007 OR10 has an absolute magnitude (H) of 2.34,[25][26] which makes it the seventh-brightest trans-Neptunian object known. It is dimmer than Orcus (H=2.31; D=917 km)[49] but brighter than Quaoar (H=2.82; D=1,110 km).[50] The Minor Planet Center and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory Small-Body Database assume a brighter absolute magnitude of 1.6 and 1.8, respectively,[1][28] which would make it the fifth brightest trans-Neptunian object.[51]

    Being 88 AU from the Sun, the apparent magnitude of 2007 OR10 is only 21.5,[52] and so it is too dim to be seen from Earth with the naked eye.[15][53] Although closer to the Sun than the dwarf planet Eris, 2007 OR10 appears dimmer, as Eris has a higher albedo and an apparent magnitude of 18.8.[21][54]

    4. Satellite

    Hubble images of 2007 OR10 and its moon, taken in 2009 and 2010 with the Wide Field Camera 3. https://handwiki.org/wiki/index.php?curid=1874949

    Following the March 2016 discovery that 2007 OR10 was an unusually slow rotator, the possibility was raised that a satellite may have slowed it down via tidal forces.[55] The indications of a possible satellite orbiting 2007 OR10 led Csaba Kiss and his team to analyze archival Hubble observations of 2007 OR10.[56] Their analysis of Hubble images taken on 18 September 2010 revealed a faint satellite orbiting 2007 OR10 at a distance of at least 15,000 km (9,300 mi).[57] The discovery was announced on 17 October 2016 and the satellite was subsequently provisionally designated S/2010 (225088) 1.[15] The satellite is approximately 100 km (62 mi) in diameter and has an orbital period of 25 days.[56]

    5. Exploration

    It was calculated by planetary scientist Amanda Zangari that a flyby mission to 2007 OR10 would take a minimum of over 20 years with current rocket capabilities.[58] A flyby mission could take just under 25 years using a Jupiter gravity assist, based on a launch date of 2030 or 2031. 2007 OR10 would be approximately 95 AU from the Sun when the spacecraft arrives.[58]

    References

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    37. The resulting minimum diameter of 580 km is derived from the equation [math]\displaystyle{ E=\frac{\sqrt} 10^{-0.2H} }[/math], where [math]\displaystyle{ H }[/math] is the absolute magnitude of 2007 OR10, and [math]\displaystyle{ p }[/math] is the albedo of 2007 OR10, which in this case is assumed to be 1.[43]
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