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Faster than you can say “trans-Neptunian object” three times, the reaches beyond Neptune’s orbit start to fill out in this animation. And it’s astounding. Dots representing icy bodies large and small fill the area.
What’s more sobering is realizing how little we knew about this region 20 years ago. Pluto was the first object in that region discovered in 1930, and it wasn’t until 1992 QB1 was discovered that our understanding of this neighborhood increased, wrote creator Alex Parker, a planetary astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley.
“Made this for a talk I gave today. I think it came out pretty nice,” Parker wrote yesterday (May 29) on Twitter.
Parker added on the video page: “This animation illustrates the approximate relative sizes and the true orbital motion of all known trans-Neptunian objects with average orbital distances (semi-major axes) greater than Neptune’s. The objects are revealed on the date of their discovery. Data extracted from the Minor Planet Center database.”
On Twitter, he also provided a link to another visualization of asteroid discoveries between 1980 and 2011 by Scott Manley: