An illustration of the mysterious Planet X. Picture: Carnegie Institute for Science
An illustration of the mysterious Planet X. Picture: Carnegie Institute for Science

Hunt for Planet X uncovers new ‘object’

SCIENTISTS may be closer to discovering the mysterious "Planet X".

The International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Centre announced on Tuesday that an a distant object billions of kilometres beyond Pluto has been spotted.

Scientists said the object, which has been named 2015 TG387 and nicknamed "The Goblin", which they said provides evidence for the existence of Planet X.

Planet X is thought to be four times the size of earth. Picture: NASA
Planet X is thought to be four times the size of earth. Picture: NASA

It was discovered as part of astronomy's ongoing search for undiscovered dwarf planets and Planet X, an as yet undiscovered world that could have a mass about 10 times that of earth.

The object is reportedly on the small end of being a dwarf planet, with a 40,000-year orbit - meaning it takes a long time to go around the sun.

Scientists said its current location is about two-and-a-half times farther from the sun than from Pluto.

The new research, led by the Carnegie Institution for Science, is the most extensive research ever conducted for distant solar system objects.

"I think we are nearing the 90 per cent likelihood of Planet X being real with this discovery," said Scott Sheppard, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution for Science.

"This new object has the largest orbit of all the extremely distant objects that stay well beyond Pluto."

"These distant objects are like breadcrumbs leading us to Planet X," he continued.

"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."

The Kuiper Belt lies on the outskirts of our solar system, and calculations imply a planet also lurks out there. Picture: NASA
The Kuiper Belt lies on the outskirts of our solar system, and calculations imply a planet also lurks out there. Picture: NASA

"We think there could be thousands of small bodies like 2015 TG387 out on the solar system's fringes, but their distance makes finding them very difficult," added the University of Hawaii's David Tholen, a member of the research team.

"Currently we would only detect 2015 TG387 when it is near its closest approach to the sun. For some 99 per cent of its 40,000-year orbit, it would be too faint to see."

These objects were first noticed in October, 2015, from a Japanese telescope atop Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano in Hawaii.

The solar system as we know it, showing (l-r), Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Picture: NASA
The solar system as we know it, showing (l-r), Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Picture: NASA

According to the Carnegie Institution for Science, telescopes in Chile and Arizona later confirmed the existence.

This isn't the first discovery this group of researchers has made. Earlier this year, again while searching for Planet X, the team found 12 additional moons of Jupiter.

"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," said researcher Chad Trujillo of Northern Arizona University.

"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," he said.



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