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School Research Fellow reveals secret of blue binaries

Kuiper Belt breakthrough published in Nature Astronomy

Image: Joy Pollard

Dr Wes Fraser, Research Fellow in the School’s Astrophysics Research Centre (ARC), has published a paper in Nature Astronomy revealing the secrets of ‘blue binaries’ – pairs of ‘oddball’ objects found in the Kuiper Belt, just beyond Neptune.

Dr Fraser’s research indicates that these objects, rather than originating within the Kuiper Belt as was previously supposed, formed much closer to the Sun, but were gravitationally shepherded by Neptune into their current orbits.

In what has been described as a “major research breakthrough” Dr Fraser and his co-authors (including Dr Michele Bannister and Dr Michael Marsset, also of ARC) suggest not only that all planetesimals born near the Kuiper Belt formed as binaries, but also that Neptune itself, as it moved farther out from the Sun during the course of its formation, enjoyed a “smooth” journey.

For more on the story follow this link.

For the paper itself see Fraser, W et al., ‘All planetesimals born near the Kuiper belt formed as binaries’, Nature Astronomy 1, Article number: 0088 (2017), doi:10.1038/s41550-017-0088

(Image: Joy Pollard)