Astronomers Discover Extremely Distant Object In Hunt For Planet X

Posted: Oct 6 2018, 6:11am CDT | by , Updated: Oct 6 2018, 6:32am CDT , in Latest Science News


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Astronomers Discover Extremely Distant Object in Hunt for Planet X
2015 TG387 was nicknamed 'The Goblin' by the discoverers. Credit: Roberto Molar Candanosa and Scott Sheppard, courtesy of Carnegie Institution for Science

The newly discovered distant object hints at the presence of a massive unseen planet.

The search for unseen Planet X has led to the discovery of a new extremely distant object far beyond Pluto. Newly discovered object is likely one of the thousands of distant worlds that are lurking in the inner Oort cloud. Its odd behavior hints at the existence of a massive planet at the edge of the Solar System.

The object, named 2015 TG387 or the Goblin, is about 80 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun (the distance from the Earth to the Sun). For comparison, Pluto is around 34 astronomical units. This means that the object is about two and a half times further away from the Sun than Pluto is right now.

The Goblin is about 300 kilometers wide with a very elongated orbit. It never comes closer to the Sun or a point where an object has its closest approach distance to the Sun, known as perihelion. It has the third-most-distant perihelion. Only 2012 VP113 and Sedna have more-distant perihelia than 2015 TG387. Their orbital paths imply that these worlds are possibly influenced by the gravity of a massive planet. This putative planet is now called Planet X or Planet Nine.

“These so-called Inner Oort Cloud objects like 2015 TG387, 2012 VP113, and Sedna are isolated from most of the Solar System's known mass, which makes them immensely interesting,” said Dr. Scott S. Sheppard from Carnegie Institution for Science. “They can be used as probes to understand what is happening at the edge of our Solar System.”

In 2014, the object with the most-distant orbit at perihelion 2012 VP113 was also discovered by the same team. Previously, only Sedna was known to exist in the region.

“We think there could be thousands of small bodies like 2015 TG387 out on the Solar System's fringes, but their distance makes finding them very difficult,” said David Tholen from University of Hawaii. “Currently we would only detect 2015 TG387 when it is near its closest approach to the Sun. For some 99 percent of its 40,000-year orbit, it would be too faint to see.”

This latest discovery is part of the largest and deepest survey ever conducted for distant Solar System objects. The orbit of 2015 TG387 is similar to 2012 VP113, Sedna and most other known extremely distant trans-Neptunian objects, offering more evidence of an enormous unknown planet at the edge of the Solar System. The possible presence of this planet could explain why the most-distant objects in our Solar System have similar orbits.

Sheppard says. “These distant objects are like breadcrumbs leading us to Planet X. The more of them we can find, the better we can understand the outer Solar System and the possible planet that we think is shaping their orbits—a discovery that would redefine our knowledge of the Solar System's evolution.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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