New ice world raises ‘Planet Nine’ hopes

The Week (US) - - 20 News -

As­tronomers have dis­cov­ered a dwarf planet at the very outer reaches of our so­lar sys­tem—a find that may point the way to a long-hy­poth­e­sized ninth large planet lurk­ing some­where far be­yond Pluto. Nick­named the Goblin, the roughly 200-mile-wide dwarf planet fol­lows an ex­tremely elon­gated or­bit, re­ports The New York Times. Right now the ice world is as close as it gets to the sun, some 7.4 bil­lion miles away, or about 2.5 times far­ther than Pluto. At the most dis­tant end of its 40,000-year or­bit, the Goblin will be more than 200 bil­lion miles from the sun. Be­cause the Goblin is be­yond the grav­i­ta­tional pull of the so­lar sys­tem’s gi­ants—Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Nep­tune—sci­en­tists be­lieve that some­thing else must have shaped its un­usual or­bit. That is where the elu­sive Planet Nine comes in: The Goblin is the third small planet of its kind to have been dis­cov­ered in the outer so­lar sys­tem, and the or­bits of all three ap­pear to be clus­tered to­gether. That sug­gests the dis­tant worlds are be­ing shep­herded by a mas­sive, undis­cov­ered ob­ject—pos­si­bly our so­lar sys­tem’s ninth large planet. As­tronomer Scott Shep­pard, of the Carnegie In­sti­tu­tion for Sci­ence, says the Goblin’s discovery isn’t a “slam dunk” for Planet Nine be­liev­ers, but it makes the mys­te­ri­ous planet’s ex­is­tence look “more likely than not.”

The Goblin: Sign­post to the ninth planet?

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