'The Goblin': New Distant Dwarf Planet Bolsters Evidence for Planet X

05 October, 2018, 00:37 | Author: Sam Montgomery
  • A look at the relative distance of 2015 TG387.                  Roberto Molar Candanosa  Scott Sheppard  Carnegie Institution for Science

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. Because in 99% of positions on its orbit the planet is too faint to be seen.

At the other, most distant end of its elliptical, 40,000-year orbit, TG387 is almost 70 times farther from the sun than Pluto - more than 200 billion miles. Given its orbit, the Goblin never comes close enough to the giant planets in our solar system to be affected by their gravitational influence. While the planet is moving on a very elongated orbit.

Brown, who is known best for his role in Pluto's demotion to the status of a dwarf planet and is leading his own search for Planet Nine, agreed.

An artist's conception of a distant Solar System Planet X, which could be shaping the orbits of smaller extremely distant outer Solar System objects like 2015 TG387 discovered by a.

The simulations showed why the most-distant objects in our Solar System have similar orbits that keep them from ever approaching the proposed planet too closely. We were lucky we caught The Goblin when we did, says Sheppard, because it's only visible to use with current technology less than one percent of the time. So far, all of the objects Sheppard has spotted appear to dance as predicted. A paper with the full details of the discovery has also been submitted to the Astronomical Journal. Just two, 2012 VP113 and 90377 Sedna have a perihelion (the point of an object's orbit closest to the sun) farther out than The Goblin, and its orbit actually takes it far beyond them at its most distant point.

But the finding is also a reminder that we have a long way to go, "I think that with all of the exciting exoplanet discoveries in recent decades, people often lose sight of the fact that the only planet in our own solar system we could reliably detect around another star like the Sun is Jupiter". This planetary harmony was first picked up on by Sheppard and collaborator Chad Trujillo in 2012, when they discovered 2012 VP113, but subsequent discoveries have only bolstered their theory. We have these objects in our solar system, called dwarf planets, that are really quite small - only 500 miles in diameter.

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To put that in perspective, pretend that you could shrink the solar system so that the sun is in NY and Pluto lies in Los Angeles.

"These so-called Inner Oort Cloud objects like 2015 TG387, 2012 VP113, and Sedna are isolated from most of the Solar System's known mass, which makes them immensely interesting", Sheppard explained.

"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.

That said, little is known about The Goblin.

In 2016, Sheppard told The Washington Post that he put the odds of Planet Nine's existence at about 60 per cent. The discovery of TG387 sent shock waves to the scientific community, as its very elliptical orbit around the Sun points to the possible existence of Planet X. "We don't know exactly how big it is, but we think it's about 300 kilometers in size, which is about six or seven times smaller than Pluto". But The Goblin doesn't get anywhere near Jupiter or Neptune, so some astronomers think Planet Nine might be out there doing the slinging.

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