‘Goblin’ planet with 40,000-year-long solar orbit discovered in solar system

3 Oct 20182.29k Views

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Illustration of The Goblin. Roberto Molar Candanosa and Scott Sheppard/Carnegie Institution for Science

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The discovery of a tiny planet dubbed ‘The Goblin’ on the fringes of the solar system could indicate the presence of the fabled Planet Nine.

With Halloween less than a month away, the world of astronomy has certainly found itself dabbling in spooky topics, most notably the skull-shaped asteroid due to whizz past Earth not long after the holiday.

Now, somewhat more importantly for our understanding of our solar system, a dwarf planet dubbed ‘The Goblin’ has been discovered on its outer fringes. According to The Guardian, the planet was discovered by researchers attempting to find the so-far hypothetical Planet Nine.

Believed to possibly exist in the distant region known as the Oort Cloud, astronomers think its existence could provide an answer for many of the strange orbits observed in the solar system, including The Goblin.

Measuring just 300km across, the tiny ice world has an enormous elongated orbit, and is 2.5 times as far from the sun as Pluto at its closest. From this point, it then goes into the outer fringes of the solar system at distances up to 60 times further than Pluto.

This means it takes up to 40,000 years to make a single orbit around the sun. The fact that it was spotted by scientists was a major feat given that it remains invisible to us for 99pc of its orbit.

Illustration of the orbits of the new extreme dwarf planet, 2015 TG387, and its fellow Inner Oort Cloud objects.

The orbits of the new 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. Image: Roberto Molar Candanosa and Scott Sheppard/Carnegie Institution for Science

Just the tip of the iceberg

With its discovery, the object – officially called 2015 TG387 – is the third dwarf planet to be discovered in the outer solar system, following the locating of Sedna and another object dubbed 2012 VP113.

“We are only just now uncovering what the very outer solar system might look like and what might be out there,” said Scott Sheppard of the research team. “We believe there are thousands of dwarf planets in the distant solar system. We are just seeing the tip of the iceberg right now.”

As all three objects are located relatively close to one another, the suggestion is that all of them are being influenced by an enormous object, possibly the fabled Planet Nine. However, no direct evidence for it has been found so far.

Meanwhile, Sheppard and the rest of his research team will begin a new search starting next month to locate other objects in the fringes of the solar system, including Planet Nine.

Colm Gorey is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

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