Dwarf planet 'The Goblin' discovery redefining solar system
05 October, 2018, 04:14
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.
The new discovery, known as 2015 TG387, was found during the continual hunt for dwarf planets and Planet Nine, also known as Planet X, a planet that NASA has acknowledged may exist and may have a mass 10 times greater than Earth. Follow-up observations at the Magellan telescope at Carnegie's Las Campanas Observatory in Chile and the Discovery Channel Telescope in Arizona, were obtained in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, to measure 2015 TG387's orbit.
A research team led by Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution of Science first spotted The Goblin just before Halloween in 2015.
It's believed to be 300km (186 miles) across, which puts it at the small end of qualifying as a dwarf planet. Pluto, by comparison, is approximately between 30 and 50 AU. The Goblin is one of just a few objects whose elliptical orbits never take them closer to the sun than Neptune.
These objects were first noticed in October, 2015, from a Japanese telescope atop Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano in Hawaii. Instead, astronomers refer to its orbit in astronomical units, or AU, where 1 AU is the distance between the sun and Earth. For context, Pluto is around 34 AU, so 2015 TG387 is about two and a half times further away from the Sun than Pluto is right now.
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It is unclear at this point how much Planet X's gravitational pull affects 2015 TG387's orbit.
Goblin's orbit is extremely elongated - so stretched out, in fact, that it takes 40,000 years for it to circle the sun. After all, scientist have only discovered 14 objects such as TG387. "If the trends are true, then we don't know of another explanation for why they would be grouped in an orbit like this", Sheppard said.
And the find reinforces the idea that there are likely many more objects like it in our solar system orbiting out of sight. "For some 99 percent of its 40,000-year orbit, it would be too faint to see". "This suggests we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg of these kinds of objects and that there are thousands of them that are too far away for us to see". The orbits of these objects seem to not be entirely random. Most follow eccentric orbits that loop relatively near to the sun before taking them to the edge of the Kuiper Belt some 50 AU out and beyond. They were found by some of the same astronomers. "We don't even know the color of the object; we haven't gotten any spectroscopy on the object yet, or anything like that". At TG387'smost distant spot in its orbit, traveling there would be the equivalent to circling the earth seven times, or traveling three-quarters of the way to the moon.
The orbits of the newfound extreme dwarf planet 2015 TG387 and its fellow Inner Oort Cloud objects 2012 VP113 and Sedna, as compared with the rest of the solar system. Sheppard says a large and unknown planet could be "shepherding" these dwarf planets, directing them like a cosmic border collie around the solar system's fringe.
"This certainly adds to the growing ledger of ... objects that show Planet Nine's influence".
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