Sometimes, you unintentionally stumble upon a discovery you did not expect. It’s a surprise but in the most pleasant way.
That’s exactly what happened to astronomers who completed a recent study, in which they were searching and studying a huge planet dubbed “Planet Nine.” They had a mission: search for the planet. And that’s it. Don’t do anything else.
But, instead, the scientists ended up making a surprise discovery: a previously undetected dwarf planet. Astronomers have now nicknamed this new planet “the Goblin.”
So, what does this new planet mean for science? Will this change astronomers’ knowledge of outer space?
But First, Let’s Talk About ‘Planet Nine’
Astronomers speculated about a new dwarf planet past Pluto in 2016. It was believed the planet was roughly the same size as Neptune. Astronomers immediately began referring to this planet as “Planet Nine,” and they wanted to further study it.
But since 2016, astronomers have failed to find the planet—if one actually exists. However, astronomers aren’t ready to give up on their search just yet.
That’s what led astronomers to search for the existence of Planet Nine. But during this quest, astronomers discovered another planet—2015 TG387, otherwise known as “the Goblin.”
Looking At The Facts
“The Goblin” feels like it’s in a galaxy far, far away. It takes 40,000 years for the planet to complete one orbit. Think about it: The last time the Goblin circled the sun, wolly mammoths and saber tooth tigers still roamed the Earth.
The planet is thought to be incredibly small, only about 200 miles in diameter. It’s a small planet, but it’s big news for astronomers. Now they know other planets exist past Pluto.
But they still have one important question: What happened to Planet Nine?
Not Giving Up Yet
Astronomers aren’t ready to give up on searching for Planet Nine. When they discovered the Goblin, astronomers immediately began more studies to search for Planet Nine. After all, if the Goblin existed, other planets could exist, as well.
Astronomers have figured that Planet Nine would have assisted the Goblin along its orbit towards Earth, allowing astronomers to discover the planet in early October. With this in consideration, astronomers aren’t giving up on the possibility of Planet Nine still lurking in outer space.
There Could Be More Planets
The Goblin is far, far away from us, which could be the reason why the new planet is so intriguing to astronomers. But not as intriguing as the possibility of even more dwarf planets.
Astronomers have confirmed there are two additional dwarf planets in the same zone of outer space as the Goblin, called Sedna and 2012 VP113. It’ll only be a matter of time before astronomers stumble upon Planet Nine, and then they can finally rest.
Until then, astronomers will continue to study the already existing dwarf planets—hopeful they will provide an insight into outer space.
“They [dwarf worlds] can be used as probes to understand what is happening at the edge of our solar system,” said lead researcher Scott Sheppard. “Their orbital situation makes them immensely interesting.”