A newly found object may set a new record for the most distant dwarf planet in the solar system. The object, called V774104, lies about nine and a half billion miles from the sun, or two to three times farther away than Pluto.
V774104 is a little less than half Pluto’s size, and like Pluto it may move closer toward or farther away from the sun during its orbit, but those details of its motion cannot yet be determined.
“That’s pretty much all we know about it. We don’t know its orbit yet because we only just discovered it about two weeks ago,” astronomer Scott Sheppard, of the Carnegie Institution for Science and one of the co-discoverers of the new object, said in an interview with Space.com .
The finding is part of a larger hunt for objects in this cold, dark region beyond Pluto, where scientists think they can find clues about the early solar system.
Living beyond Neptune
Beyond the orbit of Neptune is a band of cold, icy bodies (including Pluto), called the Kuiper Belt. Pluto is about 3.67 billion miles from the sun, but regions of the solar system are more commonly talked about in “astronomical units” (AU), which is the distance from the Earth to the sun, or about 93 million miles (150 million kilometers). Neptune is, on average, 30.1 AU from the sun; Pluto orbits between 29 and 49 AU.
If the measurements of V774104 are correct, it currently lies 103 AU from the sun, which would place it in a region called the inner Oort Cloud. The Oort Cloud is a sphere of icy, rocky objects that wraps around the solar system.
The dwarf planet Eris orbits the sun in the inner Oort Cloud, at a distance that ranges from 37 to 97 AU. The dwarf planet Sedna, discovered in 2003, has an incredibly eccentric orbit, such that it can be anywhere between 76 AU and about 940 AU from the sun. Last year, Sheppard and Trujillo discovered an object similar to Sedna called 2012 VP113 that orbits between 80 and 452 AU from the sun.
Full report: New Dwarf Planet In Our Solar System May Be The Farthest One Yet
Sedna discoverer Mike Brown said years ago:
“Sedna shouldn’t be there”, Brown said. “There’s no way to put Sedna where it is. It never comes close enough to be affected by the Sun, but it never goes far enough away from the Sun to be affected by other stars.” Brown therefore postulated that a massive unseen object may be responsible for Sedna’s anomalous orbit.