Distant Ice World Nicknamed 'The Goblin' Gives More Evidence for Ninth Planet in our Solar System

Wednesday, 03 October 2018 - 1:35PM
Astronomy
Space
Solar System
Wednesday, 03 October 2018 - 1:35PM
Distant Ice World Nicknamed 'The Goblin' Gives More Evidence for Ninth Planet in our Solar System
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Image Credit: Outer Places composite via Pixabay
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 strange 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.

As far as nicknames go, the icy mini-planet officially known as 2015 TG387 could have done worse—it could have been ended up with the moniker STEVE (which is used for an Arctic skyglow), or Tiramisu (one of the suggested names for the distant body now known as Ultima Thule). The Goblin is only a few hundred miles wide, and is around 7.4 billion miles from the Sun, which is about 2.5 times farther than Pluto. What's special about it is that its 40,000-year orbit takes it way, way, way farther—in fact, this is about as close as it's ever going to get to us. Since it's definitely outside the gravitational influence of the gas giants in our Solar System, the question becomes "What brought it into that orbit?"

The most elegant answer (and one supported by The Goblin's orbit) is that there's a pretty sizable planet orbiting somewhere out there, influencing the orbit of The Goblin and millions of other distant space objects, like Sedna. According to Ann-Marie Madigan, an astronomer from the University of Colorado: "This new object does look like it's quite good for the Planet Nine theory." Her sentiment was echoed by Dr. Michael E. Brown, the scientist who led the charge to demote Pluto to "dwarf planet" status: "Mostly it's just another piece that fits in the puzzle very nicely."

Hopefully, Planet Nine's ultimate appearance doesn't lead to the destruction of Earth, as it has been foretold.


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