On June 8, the Minor Planet Center announced the discovery of the Trans-Neptunian Object 2010 KZ39 located some 46 AU from the Sun.
The unusual feature of the announcement was the brightness of the object at 20th magnitude making it to be around 700 +/- a few hundred kilometers across. The last time an object of this size or larger was discovered was in 2007, namely the two large TNOs, 2007 OR10 and 2007 UK126.
The present object was found relatively close to the opposition point in images taken on May 21 and May 23 by A. Udalski, S. S. Sheppard, M. Szymanski and C. Trujillo of Las Campanas Observatory using a 1.3-meter telescope. They carried out follow-up on June 5 so that an orbit could be calculated.
2010 KZ39 is currently at a declination of -29 degrees in the constellation of Scorpius. Astrometry of the new object has been reported to the Minor Planet Center.
Richard Miles, Director of the BAA Asteroids and Remote Planets Section, said: “This is a fascinating discovery. The day of the announcement I happened to be using the Faulkes Telescope South to image near-Earth asteroids and added this much more distant body to the target list. The image above depicts the new distant object.
“You can see how difficult it is to spot these faint glimmers of light which hardly move – even three images taken over a 45-minute interval hardly show any trailing – just 2 arcseconds.”
The BAA Asteroids and Remote Planet Section is looking to start a new project working with schools and interested amateurs to observe TNOs with the two large Faulkes telescopes.
“Often TNOs are discovered but they are only observed for a short time – not long enough to determine an accurate orbit,” adds Richard Miles. “There is plenty of scope for keen observers to contribute to their study”
At the BAA Exhibition Meeting in Greenwich on June 26, there will be a 1-hour observing session using each of the two Faulkes telescopes when we shall be able to, in addition to other targets, re-observe 2010 KZ39.