Scrawny dwarf planet named Goblin found well beyond Pluto

The object has an orbit that hints at an even-farther-out “Super-Earth” or larger “Planet X” could be lurking out there

They discovered a new extremely distant object far beyond Pluto with an orbit that supports the presence of an even-farther-out, Super-Earth or larger Planet X.

To put that in perspective, pretend that you could shrink the solar system so that the sun is in NY and Pluto lies in Los Angeles.

The object is on the small end of being a dwarf planet, with a 40,000-year orbit - meaning it takes that long to go around the sun. At about 300 km (186 miles) wide, it is on the small side of being a dwarf planet.

It is one of the most distant bodies ever identified within the sun's gravitational range. The speed gives the distance. "We are only seeing the tip of the ice berg", Sheppard said in an email. "We can't really say anything about its orbit". The orbits of these objects seem to not be entirely random.

This distant object, along with a couple others previously found by Sheppard and his colleagues, has a fairly unusual path which is thought to be created when a smaller object interacts with a larger one in the past. Such objects defy the normal expectations of how planets and asteroids form.

Like the other objects found by Sheppard and his team on the edge of the solar system, the Goblin behaves in a way that is pushed into a similar orbit by some unseen force.

"Objects such as 2015 TG387 allow us to probe not only the makeup of the solar system itself but also the gravitational mechanisms that sculpt it", said Konstantin Batygin, a planetary scientist at the California Institute of Technology who was not involved with the observation. It's an elongated ellipse.

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

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Juliette Becker is an astronomer at the University of MI. "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", Northern Arizona University's Chad Trujillo reports.

A tiny new dwarf planet - nicknamed "The Goblin" - has been spotted at the outer edge of our solar system, and it offers hints it's not alone out there. That's 2,300 astronomical units, or AU.

And lead author of the study Scott Sheppard believes there are thousands of these extremely distant objects with elongated orbits around the sun. "Right now we obviously don't have enough, but this particular object is such a unique orbit and it's so useful that the ticker in my mind just jumped up". These orbits keep them from ever approaching the proposed planet too closely, similar to how Pluto never gets too close to Neptune even though their orbits cross. Batygin, in a 2016 paper in the Astronomical Journal, estimated Planet Nine would be up to 10 times as massive as Earth.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. That's where Planet X comes in.

JOE PALCA, BYLINE: There are several things that do make the new object nicknamed The Goblin remarkable.

"These distant objects are like breadcrumbs leading us to Planet X. 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", Sheppard added. So far, all of the objects Sheppard has spotted appear to dance as predicted. But that's all we can say.

The vast distances the object must travel to complete an orbit means that it only travels around the Sun once every 40,000 years. That converts to about about 6,042,127,472.38 miles. But only with additional observations did they realize how far out TG387 really is.

BECKER: An easier solution is the existence of Planet Nine because it naturally creates these objects in the solar system. Smaller objects like the Goblin have to dance around Planet Nine, or else they would collide with it or be ejected from their orbits. But this particular object is such a unique orbit, and it's so useful that, like, I - the ticker in my mind just jumped up.

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