Maps of the outer solar system

Maps of the outer solar system

Duncan Steel
2016 January 05

A press release from the Royal Astronomical Society following publication in the RAS journal Astronomy & Geophysics of a review paper by myself and three long-term colleagues (Centaurs as a hazard to civilization) has received substantial media coverage, and also requests for permission to use the map of the outer solar system that I produced to accompany that press release. That map is as below.


Should anyone wish to generate a higher-resolution (in pixel numbers) version of that map, or part of it, they can do so using the PDF version that is available here. An unlabelled PDF is here.

Below is an alternative version that covers a wider extent, so as to include also the orbit (in part) of Sedna; a PDF version of that map (unlabelled) is available here.


A note on the contents of the maps… The orbits shown were downloaded from the lists maintained at the IAU Minor Planet Center on pages here and here.  From those lists I selected only those objects that had received permanent names through to 2015 December, those comprising 22 Centaurs and 17 trans-Neptunian objects (as defined by me simply to have perihelia either within or without Neptune’s heliocentric orbit).  The mapping of the orbits was done using the semi-major axes, eccentricities and longitudes of perihelion, but not the inclinations; that is, these ellipses show the sizes, shapes and orientations of the orbits on the same assumed orbital plane (the ecliptic) with no account taken of their actual tilts to that plane.

Permission is hereby granted for the unlimited reproduction of these maps provided the website label on the above images ( is not removed and that all usage is credited to ‘Duncan Steel’.