Published: Fri, October 05, 2018
Science | By Michele Flores

Extremely Distant Solar System Object Discovered

Extremely Distant Solar System Object Discovered

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.

2015 TG387 makes very elongated, 40,000-year orbits around our star that take it as far as 2,300 AU at its furthest point from the sun. "For some 99 percent of its 40,000-year orbit, it would be too faint to see". Pluto is about 34 AU from the sun, so 2015 TG387 is two and a half times farther from the sun than the former ninth planet.

Called 2015 TG387, it has a very elongated orbit meaning it never comes close enough to the Solar System's giant planets, like Neptune and Jupiter, to have significant gravitational interactions with them. But The Goblin doesn't get anywhere near Jupiter or Neptune, so astronomers think another planet, nicknamed Planet Nine, might be out there doing the slinging. "This is not true if you just randomly placed small objects into the outer solar system, as they would mostly be unstable to a massive Planet X".

"What makes this result really interesting is that Planet X seems to affect 2015 TG387 the same way as all the other extremely distant Solar System objects".

"There are a lot of exotic and extreme objects yet to be found in the outer solar system", he says.

The object's official name is 2015 TG38, but it's been nicknamed "The Goblin" because that's way cooler.

A paper describing it has also been submitted to the Astronomical Journal.

The researchers were able to detect the Goblin in the first place because they're using the Japanese Subaru telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii, one of the largest telescopes in the world and the most powerful survey telescope due to its large field of view. It is officially known as 2015 TG387 by the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Centre.

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2015 TG387 was first discovered in October 2015, but it took the researchers three years to get its orbit correct. In theory, Planet X is supposed to be somewhere in that general area.

In 2016, astronomers Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown presented more evidence for such an unseen "perturber", which they called Planet Nine.

Nicknamed "Planet Nine", the idea first emerged in 2014 when Dr Scott Sheppard and Professor Chad Trujillo sought to explain a unusual cluster of six small objects in the Kuiper Belt, a field of icy and rocky objects beyond Neptune. Scientists hope to map the orbits of these smaller, distant objects in order to figure out exactly where Planet X may be.

In the new study, the researchers also performed computer simulations to test how Planet X's gravitational tug might influence the orbit of The Goblin.

Still, there's a new rock in our Solar System, friends. Though the trends have held, the astronomers admit they are dealing with a small number of known objects.

It's believed to be 300km (186 miles) across, which puts it at the small end of qualifying as a dwarf planet. In other words, it takes around 40,000 Earth years for it to travel once around the Sun, University of Hawaii's David Tholen said, adding that "there could be thousands of small bodies like 2015 TG387 out on the Solar System's fringes, but their distance makes finding them very hard".

Still, the existence of Planet Nine remains unproven.

BECKER: An easier solution is the existence of Planet Nine because it naturally creates these objects in the solar system.

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