The Goblin, a dwarf planet, found far beyond Pluto

06 October, 2018, 01:44 | Author: Dwayne Harmon
  • Carnegie Institution for Science

Step by step, astronomers are growing tantalizingly close to finding the solar system's long-rumored "Planet Nine" lurking somewhere farther out than Pluto: they've got everything from odd asteroid orbits to medieval manuscripts on their side, and now a tiny planet nicknamed "The Goblin" brings even more credence to the theory that there's something out there messing with the orbits of tiny worlds out in the Kuiper Belt-and beyond. One AU is the distance from Earth to the sun, or roughly 93 million miles (150 million kilometers). Nicknamed the Goblin and with a diameter of 300 kilometres, this dwarf planet is about two and a half times further from the Sun than Pluto and would travel around our star in 40,000 years. Only 2012 VP113 and Sedna, at 80 and 76 AU respectively, have more distant perihelia than 2015 TG387. At its furthest point, it reaches all the way out to about 2,300 AU. Illustration by Roberto Molar Candanosa and Scott Sheppard, courtesy of Carnegie Institution for Science.

The 2014 discovery of 2012 VP113 by Sheppard and Trujillo led the researchers to propose the presence of a Planet X.

2012 VP113 has the most distant orbit at perihelion, at just over 80 AUs. Scott Sheppard, of the Carnegie Institution for Science, explains that "most of it is found, and the more we understand the frontier of the solar system and the influence of a possible planet that, we think, shapes their orbit".

"We think 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", according to Tholen, of the University of Hawaii.

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).

The astronomers searching out the theorized Planet X, a far-off and dark object orbiting the sun that could explain some odd behavior of objects far beyond Pluto, happened upon a serendipitous discovery: a new dwarf planet with a freakish elliptical orbit.

Like the other objects found by Sheppard and his team on the edge of the solar system, the Goblin behaves in a way that is pushed into a similar orbit by some unseen force.

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A comparison of 2015 TG387 at 65 AU with the Solar System's known planets.

Tholen first observed 2015 TG387 in October of 2015 at the Japanese Subaru 8-meter telescope on Maunakea.

This is similar to why Pluto never gets too close to the gas giant Neptune, although their orbits actually cross.

It took several years of measurement, but now Sheppard says they have a pretty good idea of The Goblin's orbit, and it's definitely interesting.

The dwarf planet was discovered in 2015, but wasn't unveiled until this week. That's where Planet X comes in.

So if the Goblin is unaffected by the gas giant planets in our solar system, what contributes to its unusual orbit? "These simulations do not prove that there's another massive planet in our Solar System, but they are further evidence that something big could be out there" Trujillo concludes.

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

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