Quote of the Day
Einstein repeatedly argued that there must be simplified explanations of nature, because God is not capricious or arbitrary. No such faith comforts the software engineer…
— Frederick P. Brooks Jr., The Mythical Man-Month– Essays on Software Engineering
The amount of information being gathered in recent years on objects in the outer solar system is amazing. Think about what has happened in recent years:
- The New Horizons probe visited Pluto.
- Many new bodies have been discovered that both bigger and further out than Pluto (example).
- Strong evidence has been found for a large body in the outer solar system.
- The New Horizons probe has been directed to a recently discovered body (2014 MU69) that may consist of two bodies in very close proximity.
While searching the web for information on the outer solar system, I encountered the graph shown in Figure 1. This graph is made using eccentricity and perihelion data for ~1000 outer solar system objects. As I looked at it, I though I could generate a similar chart using data from the JPL Small Body Database Search Engine – a wonderful tool for solar system data exploration efforts.
I used the JPL search engine to download a list of all outer solar system asteroids and trans-Neptunian objects, which provided me 25K data points to plot (search setup). I then used Power Query and Excel to plot the data in Figure 2. Clearly, Sedna and 2012 VP113 are outliers in the data set. For reference purposes, I also included the same points for Pluto, Neptune, and Uranus.
For those who are interested in duplicating this work, my workbook and data file are included here.