Two astronomers from the Carnegie Institution for Science (CIS) and a team of experts have discovered the existence of a new dwarf planet at the outer edges of the solar system.
The newly discovered object has been designated 2012 VP113, and was discovered in the inner Oort Cloud, a group of comets and other frozen bodies located nearly a light-year away from the Sun. Estimates place the beginning of the Cloud at 50,000 astronomical units (AU) away. An AU is the mean distance between Earth and the Sun, or 157 million kilometers (93 million miles).
One of the most interesting conclusions the team arrived at in the new study was that a planet some 10 times larger than Earth must exist in the Oort Cloud. This prediction was made based on distortions discovered in 2012 VP113’s orbit. The hypothetical world may also be influencing objects in the inner Oort Cloud, sending comets and other celestial bodies towards the inner solar system.
“This is an extraordinary result that redefines our understanding of our Solar System,” explains the Director of the CIS Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, Linda Elkins-Tanton.
Previously, the most distant known dwarf planet in our solar system was Sedna, located about three times farther away from the Sun than Neptune. Its aphelion, or point where it is farthest from the Sun, reaches an estimated 937 AU. The new study determined 2012 VP113 orbits well beyond Sedna.