Scientists have found another new planet at the edge of our solar system, it has been revealed on November 10, at the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences annual meeting.
This is the most distant object that has ever been encountered in our planetary system, and researchers are now speculating what forces might be at play in that far-off section of space.
The celestial body was initially identified in mid October by a team of experts led by Scott Sheppard, astronomer in the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism at the Carnegie Institute for Science in Washington, D.C.
Using a Subaru telescope at Mauna Kea, Hawaii, scientists were hoping to catch a glimpse of new objects orbiting the Sun, when they discovered a tiny spot of light.
The icy object, which they named V774104, is actually a dwarf planet, smaller than our moon. It is estimated that its diameter is between 500 and 1000 kilometers, more than half as small as Pluto, and comparable to the width of Texas.
It’s located at a distance of more than 9.6 billion miles (15.4 billion kilometers) away from the Sun, and it’s 3 times more far-flung than Pluto. In other words, its remoteness is of 103 astronomical units, which are measured as the distance between the Sun and planet Earth.
If we define the solar system traditionally, as the region where our host star’s gravitational pull can be felt, the hypothetical Oort Cloud is right at the edge of that area, between 2,000 and 100,000 AU away.
It contains around 2 trillion icy, Trans-Neptunian objects, and is also believed to be the source of many of the long-period comets that have been spotted from our planet.
According to scientists, V774104 is situated between this Oort Cloud and the Kuiper Belt, which extends about 30 to 55 AU from the Sun, and contains dwarf planets such as Pluto.
Researchers believe this newly identified space object might have been pushed so far away from the Sun by a large rogue planet, which had been ejected from our solar system, and pulled V774104 through space because of its own gravitational forces.
Another theory is that the dwarf planet reached its current remote position, after leaving another star system and falling under the attraction force of our sun.
For now, experts are still trying to determine what orbit the newly identified space object might have, by conducting follow-up research.
It’s unclear if they will actually come up with an answer to that question, or if the trajectory of V774104 will remain unexplainable, just like that of the Sedna planetoid, which was identified in 2013.
Some astronomers hypothesize that in fact inner Oort cloud objects such as Sedna, 2012 VP113 and even this recently discovered dwarf planet are actually influenced by the mysterious “Planet X”, which might be lying hidden at the extremity of our solar system.
Image Source: Centauri Dreams