Published: Sat, October 06, 2018
Science | By Cecil Little

Scientists find a frozen, scrawny dwarf planet nicknamed the Goblin

Scientists find a frozen, scrawny dwarf planet nicknamed the Goblin

For context, Pluto is around 34 AU, so 2015 TG387 is about two and a half times further away from the Sun than Pluto is right now.

In fact, the object is so far away that even during its perihelion-the part of the orbit that is closest to the Sun-it is no more than 65 AU.

However, it also travels much farther than 2012 VP113 and Sedna.

Sheppard told Laboratory Equipment by email that the evidence so far shows that Planet X may be closer to "aphelion", its farthest orbital point from the sun, which may therefore explain why it remains to elusive.

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It's the third dwarf planet recently found to be orbiting on the cold borders of our solar system. 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.

Sheppard and Trujillo, an assistant professor at Northern Arizona University, previously discovered 2012 VP113, which was revealed in 2014. "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".

We believe that such small bodies in the outer Solar system should be thousands, but the distance at which they are, makes their detection rather hard.

"Currently we would only detect 2015 TG387 when it is near its closest approach to the Sun". This also means the Goblin takes 40,000 years to complete one orbit of the sun.

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The recently discovered dwarf planet officially named 2015 TG387 (and nicknamed "The Goblin") isn't Planet Nine (or Planet X, as it's often referred to).

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. They first observed it in 2015 with the Subaru Telescope. That similarity led them to propose the existence of a planet several times larger than Earth. Its large orbit and slow movement allowed Sheppard and his team to study it for several years so they could properly understand it. Follow up observations in 2016, 2017, and 2018 using the Magellan telescope at Carnegie's Las Campanas Observatory in Chile and the Discovery Channel Telescope in Arizona eventually confirmed the planet's existence.

With recent searches of what lies beyond Pluto, astronomers have now detected a small planet some 200 miles in diameter which lies at the incredible distance of some 7.9 billion miles from the Sun. The first discovered sednoid was the minor planet Sedna.

The Goblin originates in the Inner Oort Cloud, a disc-shaped region far beyond our eighth planet.

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In case of Planet Nine/X, bias comes in the form of observing bodies with an unusual orbit that stand out precisely because they have anomalous orbits while the ones with normal orbits haven't been spotted yet. "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.

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