Scientists Discover New Dwarf Planet Beyond Pluto

A look at the relative distance of 2015 TG387.                  Roberto Molar Candanosa  Scott Sheppard  Carnegie Institution for Science

The Goblin's skewed orbit, which mirrors the orbits of fellow dwarf planets "Biden" and "Sedna", could indicate another, much larger planet even farther out on the edge of the solar system, according to planetary scientist Konstantin Batygin of the California Institute of Technology.

The Goblin-formally known as 2015 TG38-sits more that twice as far from the Sun as Pluto does, even at its closest approach.

Called 2015 TG387, it has a very elongated orbit meaning it never comes close enough to the Solar System's giant planets, like Neptune and Jupiter, to have significant gravitational interactions with them.

In essence, their orbits are arranged in such a way that it seems like there's another large planet tugging them into alignment. "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". Sheppard said he predicts thousands of objects the same size as 2015 TG387 dot the rim of our solar system.

"And then if you bring in some of the other extreme objects - several of them were found in our survey as well", Sheppard told Space.com.

The object's official name is 2015 TG38, but it's been nicknamed "The Goblin" because that's way cooler. Sheppard, who found another similar object just four years ago, spent the next three years confirming the original sighting with his team and announced the find today in the Astronomical Journal.

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 isn't the first discovery this group of researchers has made. Data about the discovery is published on the website of the Minor Planet Center. Astronomers have narrowed down the search area for Planet Nine but have not yet found it.

It's believed to be 300km (186 miles) across, which puts it at the small end of qualifying as a dwarf planet.

Sheppard said the faraway objects are "like breadcrumbs leading us to Planet X".

In October 2017, NASA released a statement saying that Planet Nine may be 20 times further from the Sun than Neptune is, going so far as to say "it is now harder to imagine our solar system without a Planet Nine than with one".

The existence of Planet X was first seriously proposed in 2014 by Sheppard and Trujillo, to potentially explain oddities in the orbits of 2012 VP113, Sedna and a few other trans-Neptunian objects. In other words, it takes around 40,000 Earth years for it to travel once around the Sun, University of Hawaii's David Tholen said, adding that "there could be thousands of small bodies like 2015 TG387 out on the Solar System's fringes, but their distance makes finding them very hard". That would bring the number of true planets in our solar system back to nine, replacing Pluto which was demoted in 2006. 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.

BECKER: An easier solution is the existence of Planet Nine because it naturally creates these objects in the solar system.

Instead, another theoretically massive planet located near The Goblin would be Planet Nine, orbiting through the region known as the Oort Cloud.

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