Minor Planet Eccentricity versus Perihelion Chart

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

Figure 1: Interesting Graph Showing Minor Planet Eccentricities Versus Perihelion Distance. (Source)

Figure 1: Interesting Graph Showing
Minor Planet Eccentricities Versus
Perihelion Distance. (Source)

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.

Figure 2: My Version of Figure 1.

Figure 2: My Version of Figure 1.

For those who are interested in duplicating this work, my workbook and data file are included here.

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