Science

The Goblin dwarf planet may lead to Planet Nine discovery

The Goblin dwarf planet may lead to Planet Nine discovery”

But if they're not being tugged on by the planets we know about, that leaves the door open for interactions with objects we haven't yet discovered, like Planet Nine. With an estimated diameter of 200 miles, it's thought to be just massive enough to crush itself into a round shape, which would fit the definition for a dwarf planet. But it wasn't publicly unveiled until Tuesday following further observations with ground telescopes.

"I think we are nearing the 90 per cent likelihood of Planet X being real with this discovery", said Scott Sheppard, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution for Science. Sheppard and his colleagues first spotted the world, which for now carries the official designation of 2015 TG387 as part of a systematic search three years ago for new worlds in the outer system, including the hypothesized Planet Nine.

Discovering Planet X would "redefine our knowledge of the solar system's evolution", he added.

It took nearly three more years of observations to nail down The Goblin's oddball orbit, which ranges between 65 and 2,300 AU from the sun over the course of a 40,000-year circuit. The orbit of 2015 TG387 shares peculiarities with those of other extremely farflung bodies, which appear to have been shaped by the gravity of a very large object in that distant, frigid realm - the hypothesized Planet Nine, also known as Planet X.

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

2015 TG387, which is now being described by researchers as an "extreme dwarf planet" that lies roughly two and a half times further away from the Sun than Pluto does - it's super, super far away.

Sheppard, along with Northern Arizona University's Chad Trujillo and the University of Hawaii's David Tholen, spotted the Goblin in October 2015 when it was relatively nearby - around 80 AU.

Scientists discovered an extremely distant object billions of miles beyond Pluto.

Thousands - even a million - more such objects could be way out there orbiting in the so-called Inner Oort Cloud, according to the researchers.

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

That orbit puts the new dwarf planet in a group of distant solar system rock objects that scientists believe point to the existence of Planet X; the mythical, theorised planet beyond the edge of the solar system that apparently chills in absolute darkness and has thus-far eluded detection. The AP is exclusively responsible for all content. "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".

"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", said the University of Hawaii's David Tholen, a member of the research team. In theory, Planet X is supposed to be somewhere in that general area.

'They can be used as probes to understand what is happening at the edge of our Solar System'. These results made use of the Discovery Channel Telescope at Lowell Observatory.

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.

The astronomers have submitted a paper describing the discovery to The Astronomical Journal.



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