Scrawny dwarf planet named Goblin found well beyond Pluto

A look at the relative distance of 2015 TG387.                  Roberto Molar Candanosa  Scott Sheppard  Carnegie Institution for Science

The discovery of 2012 VP113 led Sheppard and Trujillo to notice similarities of the orbits of several extremely distant solar system objects, and they proposed the presence of an unknown planet several times larger than Earth-sometimes called Planet X-orbiting the Sun, well beyond Pluto at hundreds of AU. 2015 TG387 was nicknamed "The Goblin" by the discoverers, as its provisional designation contains TG and the object was first seen near Halloween.

For 99 percent of its orbit, it would be too faint to see.

2015 TG387, which is now being described by researchers as an "extreme dwarf planet" that lies roughly two and a half times further away from the Sun than Pluto does - it's super, super far away. 2015 TG387 is one of the few known objects that never comes close enough to the Solar System's giant planets, like Neptune and Jupiter, to have significant gravitational interactions with them.

Scientists have discovered yet another marker on the trail toward the putative Planet Nine.

"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 said. "We believe there are thousands of dwarf planets in the distant solar system".

It joins other objects Sheppard and his team have found on the edge of the solar system since 2012.

"It took us three years to figure out that it has an interesting orbit", Sheppard said.

The findings were submitted for publication to the Astronomical Journal.


When studying the orbit of The Goblin, the researchers discovered that it appears to be acted upon by an unseen object in the same area as others which have offered hints to the existence of a hidden planet.

But the finding is also a reminder that we have a long way to go, "I think that with all of the exciting exoplanet discoveries in recent decades, people often lose sight of the fact that the only planet in our own solar system we could reliably detect around another star like the Sun is Jupiter". But the planet may be most memorable for another discovery it portends. This has pointed astronomers to the existence of a ninth, super-Earth sized planet.

Sheppard and his colleagues think 2015 TG387 is about 186 miles (300 km) wide and probably spherical, in which case it would qualify as a dwarf planet. "The announcement does not mean there is a new planet in our solar system".

The weird orbits of those worlds are consistent with the hypothesis that a distant planet larger than Earth, known as Planet Nine or Planet X, is exerting its gravitational influence.

First, unlike Earth and most of the rest of the objects in our solar system, its orbit isn't even close to round.

"When we put a hypothetical distant massive Planet X into our numerical simulations of the solar system, TG387 is still stable", he says.

So if the Goblin is unaffected by the gas giant planets in our solar system, what contributes to its unusual orbit? The planet, if it exists, would be bigger than the Goblin or Pluto. "These things have been twisted out of the solar system plane with help from Planet Nine and then scattered inward by Neptune". Though the trends have held, the astronomers admit they are dealing with a small number of known objects.

Far beyond the orbits of the solar system's eight planets, astronomers have found another object they've nicknamed "The Goblin".

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