1996 TL66, a Newly Discovered Planetesimal

TL66 was recently discovered by Jane Luu of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and David Jewitt of the University of Hawaii. These two images of 1996 TL66 were taken by Jane and David at the University of Hawaii 2.2 meter telescope on UT 1996 October 15 at 7:14 (top) and 12:41 (bottom). The motion of TL66 to the right (west) is clearly apparent. These are 600 second integrations through our "VR" survey filter. The image panels shown here are 1.6 x 1.4 arcmin in size, corresponding to 0.7% of the total area of a single readout from the UH 8k Camera.

This plan of the outer solar system , produced by Gareth Williams of the Minor Planet Center housed at the CfA, shows the extraordinary orbit of 1996 TL66. The four light blue orbits denote Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. The swarm of orbits outside Neptune shows the extent of the "classical" Kuiper Belt at 50 AU. In contrast, the highly eccentric orbit of TL66 carries it as far as 130 AU at aphelion, suggesting that the outer solar system is populated at much larger distances than previously thought. TL66 was discovered (and is presently) near perihelion, at about 35 AU. The discovery reminds us that we still do not fully know the contents of our own solar system.

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