Astronomers have spotted what they believe is the most distant object in the solar system -- a dwarf planet floating some 9.5 billion miles from the sun.
"That's pretty much all we know about it," Scott Sheppard told Space.com. "We don't know its orbit yet because we only just discovered it about two weeks ago."
Sheppard, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., announced the discovery last week during a meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences in Maryland. The object was found using Japan’s 8-meter Subaru Telescope in Hawaii.
V774104 is about 103 times farther from the sun than Earth, and scientists' early guess is that it is part of a rare group of "sednoids," objects whose orbital paths exist entirely outside the Kuiper Belt and extend into the Oort Cloud, the boundary of our solar system.
Only two confirmed sednoids exist -- Sedna and 2012 VP113 -- but scientists suspect there are more.
If V774104 proves to be one, it would provide astronomers with further support for the theory that an undiscovered Planet X is lurking in the outer fringes of our solar system. The gravitational pull from a Planet X would explain the highly elliptical orbits of the sednoids.
“If the orbit [of V774101] turns out to be an orbit that stays far away from the giant planet region, it’s an orbit that’s unperturbed by the orbit of the discovered giant planets," Sheppard told The Inquisitr. "So we can look to see if this orbit falls in line with what we’d expect for the orbit of this hypothetical giant planet out there.”
Joseph Burns, a professor of engineering and astronomy at Cornell University, said V774104 is "more proof that the solar system is bigger than we thought.”
Until astronomers spotted V774104, the dwarf planet Eris was recognized as the solar system's most distant object. Eris is about 97 astronomical units from the sun, while V774104 is 103 AUs (AUs are a unit of length equal to the distance between Earth and the sun).
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