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New dwarf planet redefines edge of solar system

Last Updated: Thursday, March 27, 2014 - 16:56

Zee Media Bureau

Washington: Scientists using ground based observatories have discovered a dwarf pink planet located beyond the known edge of our solar system.

The observations and analysis of the newly found dwarf planet, named 2012 VP113, were led by Chadwick Trujillo of the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii and Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution in Washington. They used the National Optical Astronomy Observatory’s 13-foot (4-meter) telescope in Chile.
The Magellan 21-foot (6.5-meter) telescope at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory in Chile was used to determine the orbit of 2012 VP113 and obtain detailed information about its surface properties.

The known Solar System can be divided into three parts: the rocky planets like Earth, which are close to the Sun; the gas giant planets, which are further out; and the frozen objects of the Kuiper belt, which lie just beyond Neptune`s orbit. Beyond this, there appears to be an edge to the Solar System where only one object, Sedna, was previously known to exist for its entire orbit.

2012 VP113 has an orbit that stays even beyond Sedna, making it the furthest known in the Solar System.

Sedna was discovered beyond the Kuiper Belt edge in 2003, and it was not known if Sedna was unique, as Pluto once was thought to be before the Kuiper Belt was discovered. With the discovery of 2012 VP113 it is now clear Sedna is not unique and is likely the second known member of the hypothesized inner Oort cloud, the likely origin of some comets.
2012 VP113`s closest orbit point to the Sun brings it to about 80 times the distance of the Earth from the Sun.

From the amount of sky searched, Sheppard and Trujillo determine that about 900 objects with orbits like Sedna and 2012 VP113 with sizes larger than 1000 km may exist and that the total population of the inner Oort cloud is likely bigger than that of the Kuiper Belt and main asteroid belt.

The findings have been published in the journal Nature.

With Agency Inputs

First Published: Thursday, March 27, 2014 - 11:52

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