Pluto, the erstwhile ninth planet in our solar system, was downgraded from planet to dwarf planet in 2006. So it may come as a surprise to some that there is a potential new contender for the ninth planet, based on the discovery of another newly discovered celestial body with an amusing nickname.
The recently discovered dwarf planet officially named 2015 TG387 (and nicknamed ‘The Goblin’) isn’t Planet Nine (or Planet X, as it’s often referred to). But first spotted close to Halloween in 2015, and typically invisible to humans on Earth except for around this time of year, The Goblin’s existence, say astronomers, points to the possibility of another as-yet-unseen, Neptune-sized planet nearby, according to The Guardian.
Say hello to TG387, a newly-discovered 200-mile-wide world in our Solar System over 6 billion miles away that may help locate even larger planets beyond (Image: Scott Sheppard) https://t.co/kbQRhtSS89 pic.twitter.com/mNH4DUZY7g— Jason Major (@JPMajor) October 2, 2018
Instead, another theoretically massive planet located near The Goblin would be Planet Nine, orbiting through the region known as the Oort Cloud. Because its so large, the gravitational pull of this unseen planet gives The Goblin a unique, extreme orbit that stretches to the truly outermost regions of our solar system, roughly 60 times as far away from the Sun as Pluto.
No doubt the observation and naming of The Goblin—which is about 186 miles across, takes 40,000 years to orbit the sun—will set off new debates around planetary categorization. For example, an article published in the journal Icarus in February, for example, astronomers note that asteroids were considered planets until the 1950s, and that other criteria should be used to classify planets beyond “dynamic orbital path.”
Yet over the past decade, scientists have argued Pluto should be reclassified as the ninth planet, especially as other outer orbit dwarf planets such as Sedna and 2012 VP113 have been discovered since the turn of the century. Astronomists have showed their affinity for Pluto’s unique traits, including an underground ocean and multi-layer atmosphere, calling it our solar system’s “second-most complex, interesting planet.” But if Pluto isn’t Planet Nine, the hope is that The Goblin can help scientists discover what is.