An illustration of the orbits of the new and previously known extremely distant Solar System objects. The clustering of most of their orbits indicates that they are likely be influenced by something massive and very distant, the proposed Planet X. Credit: Courtesy of Robin Dienel

An illustration of the orbits of the new and previously known extremely distant Solar System objects. The clustering of most of their orbits indicates that they are likely be influenced by something massive and very distant, the proposed Planet X.
Credit: Courtesy of Robin Dienel

Carnegie’s Scott Sheppard and Chadwick Trujillo of Northern Arizona University have observed several never-before-seen objects at extreme distances from the Sun in our Solar System.

That’s the word today as teams of researchers continue the look to discover a purported ninth “planet” in our Solar System.

Extreme objects

In 2014, Sheppard and Trujillo announced the discovery of 2012 VP113 (nicknamed “Biden”), which has the most-distant known orbit in our Solar System. They also noticed that the handful of known extreme trans-Neptunian objects all cluster with similar orbital angles.

That research prodded them to predict that there is a planet at more than 200 times our distance from the Sun. Its mass, ranging in possibility from several Earths to a Neptune equivalent, is shepherding these smaller objects into similar types of orbits.

Some have termed this world as Planet X or Planet 9.

X marks the spot? Artist’s conception of Planet X. Credit: Courtesy of Robin Dienel

X marks the spot? Artist’s conception of Planet X.
Credit: Courtesy of Robin Dienel

Origins and evolution

“Objects found far beyond Neptune hold the key to unlocking our Solar System’s origins and evolution,” Sheppard explained in a Carnegie press statement.

“Though we believe there are thousands of these small objects, we haven’t found very many of them yet, because they are so far away,” Sheppard said. “The smaller objects can lead us to the much bigger planet we think exists out there. The more we discover, the better we will be able to understand what is going on in the outer Solar System.”

Class act

The new objects they have submitted to the Minor Planet Center for designation include 2014 SR349, which adds to the class of the rare extreme trans-Neptunian objects.

Another new extreme object they found is 2013 FT28.

And yet another discovery, 2014 FE72, is the first distant Oort Cloud object found with an orbit entirely beyond Neptune. It has an orbit that takes the object so far away from the Sun (some 3000 times farther than Earth) that it is likely being influenced by forces of gravity from beyond our Solar System such as other stars and the galactic tide. It is the first object observed at such a large distance, according to the Carnegie Science press release.

Constrain the location

The more objects that are found at extreme distances, the better the chance of constraining the location of the ninth planet that Sheppard and Trujillo first predicted to exist far beyond Pluto (itself no longer classified as a planet) in 2014.

Sheppard and Trujillo have now submitted their latest discoveries to the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center for official designations. A paper about the discoveries has also been accepted by The Astronomical Journal.

For more information, go to:

https://carnegiescience.edu/node/2082

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