Does our solar system have a SUPER EARTH? Cluster of rock at its edge hints at existence of an enormous planet

Does our solar system have a SUPER EARTH? Cluster of rock at its edge hints at existence of an enormous planet 1

2012 VP113 was first observed in November 2012 and announced earlier today. It is the most distant dwarf planet to be found orbiting our sun.

It is approximately 280 miles wide (450km) and orbits beyond the comet-rich Kuiper Belt in a region at the very edge of the system called the Oort cloud.

Get Free Email Updates!

Signup now and receive an email once I publish new content.

I will never give away, trade or sell your email address. You can unsubscribe at any time.

2012 VP113 is around half the diameter of dwarf planet Sedna, discovered a decade ago, and lies 80 times further from the sun than the Earth.

The similarity in the orbits for Sedna and 2012 VP113 points to an as yet undiscovered ‘Super Earth’.

The two dwarf planets are among of thousands of objects believed to form the inner Oort cloud and were found to have a similar orbit, suggesting the presence of a planet up to 10 times the size of Earth.

Dr Linda Elkins-Tanton, of the Carnegie Institution in the United States, said: ‘This is an extraordinary result that redefines our understanding of our Solar System.’

WHAT IS THE OORT CLOUD?

The observable solar system is divided into three distinct regions including the rocky terrestrial planets such as Earth, the gas giants like Saturn and Jupiter, and the icy Kuiper Belt objects – beyond which lies the Oort cloud.

There are three theories for how the inner Oort cloud could have formed.

One is a rogue planet could have been tossed out of the giant planet region and perturbed objects out of the Kuiper Belt on its way.

This could have been ejected or still be in the distant solar system today.

The second claims a close stellar encounter could put objects into the inner Oort cloud region, while the third theory suggests inner Oort cloud objects are extra-solar planets captured by other stars that were near our sun in its birth cluster.

The total population of the inner Oort cloud is likely bigger than that of the Kuiper Belt and main asteroid belt.

Does our solar system have a SUPER EARTH? Cluster of rock at its edge hints at existence of an enormous planet
An orbit diagram for the outer solar system. The sun and terrestrial planets are at the centre. The orbits of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are shown in purple. The Kuiper Belt, including Pluto, is shown by the dotted blue region. Sedna’s orbit is shown in orange while 2012 VP113’s orbit is shown in red
Does our solar system have a SUPER EARTH? Cluster of rock at its edge hints at existence of an enormous planet
These images show the discovery of the new inner Oort cloud object 2012 VP113 taken about 2 hours apart on 5 November 2012. Highlighted by the arrow. The motion of 2012 VP113 stands out compared to the steady state background stars and galaxies.
The observable solar system is divided into three distinct regions including the rocky terrestrial planets such as Earth, the gas giants like Saturn and Jupiter, and the icy Kuiper Belt objects – beyond which lies the Oort cloud.
 
Dr Scott Sheppard, of the Carnegie Institution, said: ‘The search for these distant inner Oort cloud objects beyond Sedna and 2012 VP113 should continue as they could tell us a lot about how our solar system formed and evolved.’
 
The researchers used a Dark Energy Camera (DECam) in the Chilean Andes to discover 2012 VP113. They then used the nearby Magellan telescope to determine its orbit and obtain detailed information about its surface.
Does our solar system have a SUPER EARTH? Cluster of rock at its edge hints at existence of an enormous planet
The dwarf planet 90377 Sedna, artist’s illustration pictured, was discovered in 2003. It has a similar orbit to the newly discovered 2012 VP113. The Carnegie study indicates the potential presence of an enormous planet, up to 10 times the size of Earth, is possibly influencing the orbit of these two dwarf planets
‘Some of these inner Oort cloud objects could rival the size of Mars or even Earth,’ said Dr Sheppard.From the sky, researchers were able to use DECam to calculate about 900 objects with orbits similar to Sedna and 2012 VP113.
 
‘This is because many of the inner Oort cloud objects are so distant even very large ones would be too faint to detect with current technology,’ continued Dr Sheppard.
 
Both Sedna and 2012 VP113 were found near their closest approach to the Sun but they both have orbits at which point they would be too faint to spot.
 
The findings are published in the journal Nature.
Does our solar system have a SUPER EARTH? Cluster of rock at its edge hints at existence of an enormous planet
Dr Linda Elkins-Tanton, of the Carnegie Institution said: ‘This is an extraordinary result that redefines our understanding of our solar system,’ stock illustration pictured. The dwarf planets sit at the very edge of the system in a region known as the Oort cloud

Get Free Email Updates!

Signup now and receive an email once I publish new content.

I will never give away, trade or sell your email address. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *