Scientists Discover New Dwarf Planet Beyond Pluto

Share

Led by Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science, the astronomers were scanning broad swathes of the sky in search of faint glimmers that might betray new objects in the solar system.

We will remind, scientists have confirmed that Mars life is possible.

The object, a 200-mile-wide rock with the rather inelegant name of 2015 TG387, is some 7.9 billion miles from the sun. Targeted hunts can produce biased results - for example, the appearance of clustering where none may actually exist, he explained. Researchers ran computer simulations to understand how different hypothetical Planet X orbits would impact the orbit of 2015 TG387. They were found by some of the same astronomers.

These objects were first noticed in October, 2015, from a Japanese telescope atop Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano in Hawaii. 2015 TG387 can be seen moving between images near the center while the much more distant stars and galaxies are stationary. Sheppard, along with colleagues at the University of Hawaii, the University of Oklahoma and Northern Arizona University, found the Goblin. The outer solar system is still a largely unknown place, and astronomers will likely be discovering new objects there for years to come. Follow-up observations at the Magellan telescope at Carnegie's Las Campanas Observatory in Chile and the Discovery Channel Telescope in Arizona were obtained in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 to determine 2015 TG387's orbit. Earth is one AU from the sun, so the new object, at maximum, is 2,300 times further from the sun than we are.

The "2015 TG387" circle, the closest distance to the Sun, is the 65 astronomical units. So 2015 TG387 is way, way out there.

The vast distances the object must travel to complete an orbit means that it only travels around the Sun once every 40,000 years. The Oort Cloud is a predicted bubble around our solar system far beyond Pluto, filled with trillions of icy bodies and the supposed birthplace of long-term comets. This puts 2015 TG387 at the smaller end of dwarf planet spectrum. But that's all they can really say about The Goblin's physical characteristics. "If the trends are true, then we don't know of another explanation for why they would be grouped in an orbit like this", Sheppard said. "We don't even know the color of the object; we haven't gotten any spectroscopy on the object yet, or anything like that".

Astronomers - including Sheppard's team in 2014 - have discovered several bodies with such distant, stretched-out orbits.

"We are very uniform in our sky coverage and can find all types of orbits, yet we seem to only be finding objects with similar types of orbits that are on the same side of the sky, suggesting something is shepherding them into these similar types of orbits, which we believe is Planet X", Sheppard said.

Still, the existence of Planet Nine remains unproven.

Evidence of a still-undiscovered planet, called Planet Nine or Planet X by scientists, has been mounting for some time, and a newly-discovered object far out from the Sun may be the latest piece to the growing puzzle. Opening Goblin indirectly confirms that this region may be a big planet - it is under the gravitational influence of a large object that is not visible yet. "Currently we would only detect 2015 TG387 when it is near its closest approach to the sun".

Share