It’s no mystery that astronomers are on the hunt for a mysterious Planet Nine somewhere out in the far reaches of our Solar System that might be impacting the orbit of our inner-most planets, but the further and further astronomers search, the weirder things seem to get.
Image Credit: Robin Dienel
Astronomers have realized that our Solar System is a lot larger than we thought it was just a couple of decades ago. In fact, the orbit around our Sun doesn’t stop at Pluto. It doesn’t even stop at the Kuiper Belt, which NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is currently exploring.
There are reportedly objects orbiting around our Sun at up to 200 times further away than we are, and this means that the beginning of interstellar space is actually much further away than we initially thought.
The findings of a research project that delve into the details of this mystery appear in The Astrophysical Journal.
Scientists are discovering strange smaller objects in the distant reaches of our solar system that we never thought could exist, and be searching for these smaller objects, and tracking their movements, we may one day discover where Planet Nine is residing, if there is one.
Since we have discovered very few of the objects at the very edge of our solar system, we know very little about them. From a first glance, they appear to have very extreme orbital paths.
Image Credit: Robin Dienel
“Objects found far beyond Neptune hold the key to unlocking our Solar System’s origins and evolution,” Carnegie’s Scott Sheppard explained.
“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. 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.”
2012-VP113 is the most distant-known object in our solar system, announced in 2014. It’s 200 times further away from the Sun than we are, but mind bogglingly, it sill orbits our star because it’s stuck in a gravitational orbit.
Finding objects that far away is very difficult, because the Sun’s light doesn’t quite reach out well enough to make these objects shine. Instead, we’re searching the pitch black of outer space and fighting against the light from other stars in the background, which make these objects appear even dimmer than they already are.
Is there another large planet out there that’s influencing the orbit of these trans-Neptunian objects? Scientists think so, but we’re not quite there yet in terms of discovering one.
Source: Carnegie Science