'Goblin' planet with 40000-year-long solar orbit discovered in solar system

04 October, 2018, 13:43 | Author: Kelly Sanders
  • Carnegie Institution for Science

There are officially eight planets in our solar system - yes, I know, Pluto was totally a planet, but not anymore - but that doesn't mean there isn't something lurking on the edge of our system that hasn't yet been spotted.

First observed in October 2015, it took four years of examination to finally determine 2015 TG387's orbit-so slow and long that for about 99 percent of its 40,000-year trajectory, the sphere is too faint to see.

Astronomers discovered an extremely distant object with an orbit that supports the idea of a remote Planet Nine. "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".

Since that time, many new objects have been discovered at much greater distances than Pluto.

The object would be around 15,000 AU from the earth and orbit the Sun with a period of some 1.8 million years.

The discovery of a tiny planet dubbed "The Goblin" on the fringes of the solar system could indicate the presence of the fabled Planet Nine. From this point, it then goes into the outer fringes of the solar system at distances up to 60 times further than Pluto.


"These objects are on elongated orbits, and we can only detect them when they are closest to the Sun", Scott Sheppard, one of the astronomers who made the discovery, told the Associated Press in an email. Follow-up observations revealed the closest distance it gets to the Sun is about 65 AU - nearly twice as much distant as Pluto is from the Sun. During its aphelion or furthest distance from the Sun during its revolution, it can be as far away as 2,300 AU, notes the release.

"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 hard", according to Tholen, of the University of Hawaii. "We are only seeing the tip of the ice berg".

"These distant objects are like breadcrumbs leading us to Planet X".

Circling a "very elongated" orbit, the celestial body never comes closer to the Sun (a point called perihelion) than 65 AU.

"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 hard", the University of Hawaii's David Tholen said in a news release. Most simulations showed that the Goblin's orbit would have been stable for the age of the Solar System. For scale, Pluto, which is not a planet, is about 34 AU. "These simulations do not prove that there is another massive planet in our Solar System, but they are further evidence that something big could be out there", Trujillo concludes.

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