A tiny new dwarf planet – nicknamed ‘The Goblin’ – has been spotted at the outer edge of our solar system, and it offers hints it’s not alone out there.
Researchers from Carnegie spotted the object far beyond Pluto – and believe that its wobbly orbit suggests there could be a huge, unseen ‘Planet X’ out there.
The researchers believe that the new object could lead them towards Planet X or Planet 9, a giant, hidden planet thought to be 10 times more massive than Earth.
The elongated planet 2015 TG387 was discovered about 80 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun, a measurement defined as the distance between the Earth and Sun.
For context, Pluto is around 34 AU, so 2015 TG387 is about two and a half times further out than Pluto.
It’s believed to be 300km (186 miles) across, which puts it at the small end of qualifying as a dwarf planet.
It was spotted in October of 2015 at the Japanese Subaru 8-meter telescope located atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii – but it took the astronomers a few years to work out its orbit.
The new object is on a very elongated 40,000 year orbit and never comes closer to the Sun, a point called perihelion, than about 65 AU.
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Scott Sheppard said, ‘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.
‘They can be used as probes to understand what is happening at the edge of our solar system.’
‘These distant objects are like breadcrumbs leading us to Planet X. 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.’