As­tronomers dis­cover dis­tant dwarf planet

The Guardian Weekly - - Global report -

An ex­tremely dis­tant dwarf planet, named The Gob­lin, has been dis­cov­ered in ob­ser­va­tions that are redefin­ing the outer reaches of the so­lar sys­tem.

As­tronomers made the dis­cov­ery while hunt­ing for a hy­po­thet­i­cal mas­sive planet, known as Planet Nine, that is sus­pected to be in or­bit far beyond Pluto in a mys­te­ri­ous re­gion known as the Oort Cloud. Planet Nine has not yet been seen di­rectly, but The Gob­lin ap­pears to be un­der the grav­i­ta­tional in­flu­ence of a gi­ant unseen ob­ject, ad­ding to as­tronomers’ cer­tainty that it is out there.

The newly dis­cov­ered icy world, es­ti­mated to be just 300km across, is in an ex­tremely elon­gated or­bit. At its clos­est, it gets about two-and-a-half times as far from the sun as Pluto. Then it heads off to the fringes of the so­lar sys­tem, to al­most 60 times fur­ther out than Pluto, tak­ing 40,000 years to loop around the sun.

The ob­ject is the third mi­nor planet to have been found in the outer so­lar sys­tem, fol­low­ing the dis­cov­er­ies of Sedna and, re­cently, an­other ob­ject called 2012 VP113.

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