The discovery of a new distant rocky object beyond the Kuiper belt, which lies on the outer edges of the solar system, has scientists all excited.
2015 TG387, nicknamed “The Goblin” by discoverers, is an extremely distant object far beyond Pluto with an orbit that supports the presence of the even-farther-out, Super-Earth or larger Planet X.
Carnegie’s Scott Sheppard and his colleagues—Northern Arizona University’s Chad Trujillo, and the University of Hawaii’s David Tholen— discovered the new extreme dwarf planet in 2015 and have been following its path for four years now.
Studies reveal TG387 is about 80 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun and takes a whopping 40,000 years to complete just one orbit. AU is a unit of length, roughly the distance from Earth to the Sun. For context, Pluto is about 34 AU away. So The Goblin “is about two and a half times further away from the Sun than Pluto is right now.”
The Goblin & the Super-Earth
Scientists have long suspected the existence of large, ninth Super Earth-like planet hidden away from human eyes, cameras and telescopes. The growing suspicion was further confirmed in 2017, after NASA officially acknowledged that it is harder to imagine our solar system without a Planet X.
Planet X, later known as the Planet 9 (Planet Nine), is a world “10 times the mass of Earth and 20 times farther from the sun than Neptune.”
It's existence was first suggested by experts at California Institute of Technology in 2016, after they spotted a group of icy objects in the Kuiper Belt have tilted orbits. Astronomers have now come up with computer simulations that supporte the Planet Nine theory.
"If you were to remove this explanation and imagine Planet Nine does not exist, then you generate more problems than you solve. All of a sudden, you have five different puzzles, and you must come up with five different theories to explain them," Konstantin Batygin, a planetary astrophysicist at Caltech in Pasadena, California, had said earlier.
Right now there are 14 different lines of observational evidence pointing to the existence of Planet Nine.
Discovery of the new goblin world is another evidence supporting the existence of this Super-Earth.
“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,” says Sheppard, who's team first pointed at the icy dwarf world.
All these objects have particular orbit patterns, that suggests that the planet is out there. Their paths are all super elongated, tilted alike, pointing in similar directions, and they all cluster together in the same area while approaching the Sun.
“What makes this result really interesting is that Planet X seems to affect 2015 TG387 the same way as all the other extremely distant Solar System objects. 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” adds Trujillo, Sheppard's colleague.
An artist’s conception of a distant Solar System Planet X, which could be shaping the orbits of smaller extremely distant outer Solar System objects like 2015 TG387 discovered by a team of Carnegie’s Scott Sheppard, Northern Arizona University’s Chad Trujillo, and the University of Hawaii’s David Tholen. Illustration by Roberto Molar Candanosa and Scott Sheppard, courtesy of Carnegie Institution for Science.
Sheppard's team has submitted a paper describing the discovery to The Astronomical Journal.
Astronomers think there could thousands or even millions of these distant objects outside the Kuiper belt.
The object was discovered as part of the team’s ongoing hunt for unknown dwarf planets and Planet X. It is the largest and deepest survey ever conducted for distant Solar System objects.