Published: Thu, October 04, 2018
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Scrawny dwarf planet, Goblin, found beyond Pluto

Scrawny dwarf planet, Goblin, found beyond Pluto

It's far from definitive evidence, but it's yet another step toward discovering or debunking the myth of Planet Nine.

Scott Sheppard, Chad Trujillo, and David Tholen detected 2015 TG387 about 80 astronomical units (AU-the distance between Earth and the Sun) from the center of our Solar System. But first spotted close to Halloween in 2015, and typically invisible to humans on Earth except for around this time of year, The Goblin's existence, say astronomers, points to the possibility of another as-yet-unseen, Neptune-sized planet nearby, according to The Guardian.

A new object hailed as 2015 TG387 nicknamed Goblin was confirmed by the International Astronomical Union.

The dwarf planet is currently about two-and-a-half times further from the sun than Pluto is right now, but it's in an elliptical orbit so extreme that it will eventually be some 67 times the distance from the sun as Pluto and into the Inner Oort cloud.

Yet over the past decade, scientists have argued Pluto should be reclassified as the ninth planet, especially as other outer orbit dwarf planets such as Sedna and 2012 VP113 have been discovered since the turn of the century.

The vast distance of this object at 2.5 times the distance of the dwarf planet Pluto makes this a most interesting object out in a region known as the Kuiper Belt.

With these data in hand, they determined that the newly-found object is on a very elongated orbit and the closest it ever gets to the sun, a point called perihelion, is about 65 AU.

"These distant objects are like breadcrumbs leading us to Planet X", Sheppard said, emphasizing their importance in expanding and redefining our knowledge of the Solar System's evolution. "They can be used as probes to understand what is happening at the edge of our Solar System". They were found by some of the same astronomers.

They have classified it as an inner Oort Cloud object since it hovers within the shell of distant icy objects covering the Solar System. This suggests that there still is a massive super-Earth far far away from the Sun. "We are only seeing the tip of the ice berg", Sheppard said in an email.

The Goblin has an extremely elongated orbit, which appears to be under the gravitational influence of a giant object that could be the obscure Planet 9 (also known as Planet X). 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.

Trujillo and University of Oklahoma's Nathan Kaib ran computer simulations to see how different hypothetical Planet X orbits would affect the orbit of 2015 TG387. "For some 99 per cent of its 40,000-year orbit, it would be too faint to see", he said.

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