Astronomers discover distant planet billions of miles beyond Pluto

Ismael LynchOct 04, 2018

Astronomers have named this theoretical planet Tyche after the Greek goddess of fortune and fame.

The object is on a very elongated orbit and never comes closer to the Sun, a point called perihelion, than about 65 AU, according to researchers from the Carnegie Institution for Science in the US.

Yet over the past decade, scientists have argued Pluto should be reclassified as the ninth planet, especially as other outer orbit dwarf planets such as Sedna and 2012 VP113 have been discovered since the turn of the century. But it wasn't publicly unveiled until Tuesday following further observations with ground telescopes. The relationship between the Goblin and Planet 9 would be similar to the relationship between Pluto and the much-larger Neptune. It is officially known as 2015 TG387 by the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center. After that discovery they noticed similarities in the orbits of several extremely distant Solar System objects.

Simply, the solar system is packed with so many small planets and the discoveries just keep on coming! "Currently we would only detect 2015 TG387 when it is near its closest approach to the Sun".

"These so-called Inner Oort Cloud objects like 2015 TG387, 2012 VP113, and Sedna are isolated from most of the Solar System's known mass, which makes them immensely interesting", Carnegie Institution for Science professor Sheppard said in a statement.

Sheppard and one of his colleagues on this study, David Tholen from the University of Hawaii, were also behind the discovery of 2012 VP113, another IOCO. "Or, you never know, if we find more of these, maybe they'll stop pointing toward the planet".

But, boasting a larger orbital semi-major axis, 2015 TG387 has the ability to travel farther away from the Sun, reaching a whopping 2,300 AU at its most extreme point.

The names, Eris, Makemake, Sedna, Quaoar, Varuna and Haumea, are not part of most peoples' vocabulary, as these are a few of the new dwarf type planets that lie within this awesome region in the solar system, known as the Kuiper Belt.

It took that long to pin down the planet's orbit, with help from the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile and the Discovery Channel Telescope in Arizona.

This is a region of the distant solar system where comets are thought to be and there is even speculation that a large gas giant planet much like Jupiter may inhabit this region of space.

"They can be used as probes to understand what is happening at the edge of our Solar System", said Sheppard. "For some 99 percent of its 40,000-year orbit, it would be too faint to see".

Meanwhile, Sheppard and the rest of his research team will begin a new search starting next month to locate other objects in the fringes of the solar system, including Planet Nine.

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