Astronomers have recently discovered the Solar System’s farthest known object and rumors about it being an extraterrestrial satellite are already spreading.
Scientists have uncovered the existence of the farthest object known in our solar system. It is over 100 times farther from the Earth than our planet is from the Sun. The previous record holder was a small planetoid called Eris, situated at 90 times the distance between us and the Sun.
Scott Shepherd disclosed this information at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society Division held in Maryland.
Finding out more about this mysterious body could be very important due to its location, which is in a part of the solar system called the Oort Cloud, somewhere farther than the Kuiper Belt. Objects travelling through this very old part of the solar system have been proved to follow the same orbit for billions of years, with no exceptions.
However, the discovery is too recent for anyone to establish the new found body’s complete trajectory. Scientists estimate that its orbit would take it closer to our Sun.
Michael Brown, who works for the California Institute of Technology says: “There’s no reason to be excited yet, I’d be willing to bet it has some more mundane explanation.”
This recent discovery is probably an insignificant part of the wonders that lie beyond the Oort Cloud. So far, only two other bodies are known from that part of the Solar System. The first was spotted by Brown himself and named Sedna and the second is commonly known as Biden and was first documented by Chadwick Trujillo and Scott Sheppard.
Biden never gets closer to our sun than 80 AU (AU=Astronomical Unit – 93 million miles, or roughly the distance from the Earth to the Sun), while Sedna’s trajectory takes it the closest at 76 AU.
Astronomers think that the newly-discovered body would never get closer to our star than 103 AU, which would place it in the very mysterious and intriguing place that is the Oort Cloud. If they’re wrong, and the new body gets at about 50 AU from the sun, it would be in the vicinity of bodies more known to mankind, who follow a longer, (stretched) orbit due to the considerable amount of gravity generated by Neptune.
Bodies from the Oort Cloud are far more interesting to astronomers that the ones from the Kuiper Belt because they are too distant to the planet Neptune to ever be influenced by its gravity. Sheppard believes the trajectories of objects from the Oort Cloud could reveal secrets about the beginning of our Solar System.
The discovery was made using the Subaru telescope at the Mauna Kea Observatory in Hawaii, and the small planet is estimated to measure between 300 and 500 miles in diameter. The plan is to search for it again as soon as the skies are clear, this time in Chile, and repeat the procedure after a year or so in order to estimate its trajectory and find out if it is really set in the Oort Cloud.
Some extreme believers are of the opinion that the object, which is not too large, could be still, or at least not follow a specific orbit. That rapidly led to the theory that (if it’s not orbiting) the body is in fact artificial, which would mean it was left there on purpose by another civilization or somehow got stuck there, perhaps due to vast amount of gravity generated by two or more large bodies or planets located close on different sides of the new discovered body.
This would make it impossible for it to orbit a body as it would be pulled by another. The theory is improbable though, as the forces acting on the body would’ve caused it to consume itself by now in that case. Or maybe it’s still being ripped apart and was once much larger. Even our best telescopes are probably not able to spot debris this far out.
The fact that so little is known about it makes every theory possible. What’s yours?