A mysterious world lurks in the outer reaches of the solar system. Image Credit: NASA
Astronomers have discovered a dwarf planet located three times further away from the sun than Pluto.
Known as V774104, this tiny world exists at the very edge of our solar system where it lurks in the cold and darkness over 100 times further out than the distance from the Earth to the sun.
It was picked up back in October by astronomer Scott Sheppard and his colleagues who were utilizing the Subaru telescope in Hawaii to search for distant objects orbiting the sun.
Because they had no idea where these objects might be the team recorded multiple images of the night sky and then used a computer to analyze and compare each one for signs of movement.
"I remember I was flying back on the plane, looking through the data, and I remember when this popped up on the screen, my eyes opened up," said Sheppard.
The origins of this newly discovered world, which is much smaller than our moon and is probably made of ice, remain a bit of a mystery due to how far away it is from everything else.
One possibility is that it was deposited by a large planet that was tossed out of the solar system in the distant past, while another is that it originally came from another solar system entirely.
The next step for the team will be to determine if its orbit actually takes it closer to the sun than it is now or if it remains out at the edge of the solar system on a permanent basis.
"This object is basically going to be interesting no matter what we find its orbit to be," said Sheppard.
Source: NPR.org | Comments (41)
Dwarf Planet, Solar System