The discovery of a distant dwarf planet far beyond Pluto might be the proof needed to find the mysterious super-Earth, Planet X.
The International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet on Tuesday, Oct. 2, announced a new extreme planet called 2015 TG387. It was nicknamed the "Goblin" because of the letters "TG" in its provisional designation and it was discovered right in time for Halloween.
The full details of the discovery have been submitted to The Astronomical Journal for publication.
A New Planet
The 2015 TG387 was discovered by Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science, Chad Trujillo of the Northern Arizona University, and David Tholen of the University of Hawaii. The extreme dwarf planet was found about 80 astronomical units from the Sun, far beyond Pluto and at the outer edge of the Solar System. In comparison, Pluto is only 34 AU away from the Sun.
According to its discoverers, 2015 TG387 has an elongated orbit that never comes close to the Sun. Its perihelion (point in the orbit where ur is nearest to the Sun) is at about 65 AU, making it the third known object that has the most distant perihelion next to 2012 VP113 (80 AU) and Sedna (76 AU).
However, it also travels much farther than 2012 VP113 and Sedna. Its aphelion measures at 2,300 AU.
"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," stated Sheppard. "They can be used as probes to understand what is happening at the edge of our Solar System."
Is Planet X Real
The scientists discovered 2015 TG387 while searching for Planet X, the hypothetical planet hiding at the outskirts of the Solar System that conspiracy theorists believe will wipe out life on Earth in a massive collision. Sometimes, it is also referred to as Nibiru or Planet Nine.
The doomsday collision theory is the stuff of science fiction, but NASA acknowledges the possibility that a ninth planet is orbiting the Sun hundreds of AU away. Scientists have found mathematical evidence of a still-undiscovered planet at the edge of the Solar System and it explains the unique orbit of the objects in the Kuiper Belt.
The 2014 discovery of 2012 VP113 by Sheppard and Trujillo led the researchers to propose the presence of a Planet X.
"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 Tholen. "Currently we would only detect 2015 TG387 when it is near its closest approach to the Sun. For some 99 percent of its 40,000-year orbit, it would be too faint to see."
Researchers believe that studying objects similar to 2015 TG387 will lead to the discovery of Planet X in the future.