Extremely Distant Solar System Object Discovered

Extremely Distant Solar System Object Discovered

Extremely Distant Solar System Object Discovered

The newly-discovered dwarf planet has been nicknamed "The Goblin" due to its discovery around Halloween.

The Goblin is "about 300 kilometres in diameter, on the small end of a dwarf planet", said Scott Sheppard, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington who discovered the object along with colleagues at Northern Arizona University, University of Hawaii and the University of Oklahoma. But it wasn't publicly unveiled until now following further observations with ground telescopes.

PALCA: Sheppard is an astronomer with the Carnegie Institution for Science.

Becker says astronomers have only found a handful of objects in addition to The Goblin that point to the existence of Planet Nine, so there is considerable skepticism that it's really out there.

It is about 80 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun, a measurement defined as the distance between the Earth and Sun.

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Scientists said its current location is about two-and-a-half times farther from the sun than from Pluto. Pluto, by comparison, is approximately between 30 and 50 AU. This makes such objects hard to find, but modern telescopes have begun to pick them out against the blackness of space.

The Goblin joins a class of other oddballs called Inner Oort Cloud objects, which skirt a zone of the solar system where millions of comets are thought to lurk.

"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.

The object, a 200-mile-wide rock with the rather inelegant name of 2015 TG387, is some 7.9 billion miles from the sun. For some 99 percent of their orbits, they are too distant and thus too faint for us to observe them. Sheppard wrote in an article for Nature in 2014 that objects like the Goblin would move in a particular way to avoid a possible "Planet Nine".

The hunt for Planet X has ongoing, but has led to the discovery of a new object billions of miles beyond Pluto, whose orbit has a lot of implications, according to a new report from the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center. The AP is exclusively responsible for all content.

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This large difference between The Goblin's closest approach and its farthest approach is the evidence for Planet Nine that astronomers are looking for.

"These simulations do not prove that there's another massive planet in our solar system, but they are further evidence that something big could be out there", he said. These results made use of the Discovery Channel Telescope at Lowell Observatory.

The solar system as we know it, showing (l-r), Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

'They can be used as probes to understand what is happening at the edge of our Solar System'. Sheppard, who found another similar object just four years ago, spent the next three years confirming the original sighting with his team and announced the find today in the Astronomical Journal.

When studying the orbit of The Goblin, the researchers discovered that it appears to be acted upon by an unseen object in the same area as others which have offered hints to the existence of a hidden planet. Most of the simulations showed that not only was 2015 TG387's orbit stable for the age of the Solar System, but it was actually shepherded by Planet X's gravity, which keeps the smaller 2015 TG387 away from the massive planet.

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