For most of us laymen, Pluto represented the farthest planet in our solar system when we were growing up. However, there’s another big object out there—way out past Pluto—that scientists have called Planet Nine, or “Planet X.” The object has been shrouded in mystery, but little by little scientists have gathered clues regarding the planet. The latest clue is in the form of a dwarf planet called 2015 TG387, which astronomers have loving named “The Goblin.”
This newfound object, as well as many other distant bodies, seem to be influenced by the gravity generated from the mysterious Planet X. Scientists believe that this newest dwarf planet is like another breadcrumb along the trail back to the giant object that is influencing its orbit. They believe that the more objects we’re able to discover, the more we’ll be able to understand the furthest reaches of our solar system and Planet X.
What makes 2015 TG387 unique is that it was incidental discovery. In short, it wasn’t discovered as a result of a focused survey designed to find clustered items in the sky, as most other dwarf planets in this area have been discovered. Instead, it was observed while conducting a uniform scan of the northern and southern skies.
So, just how far away is 2015 TG387? The easiest way to explain the distance is to consider how long it takes the object to make one elliptical pass around the sun. In the case of The Goblin, it takes about 40,000 Earth years to complete one lap around the sun. That’s really far! It’s so far away that scientists really don’t know much about the object other than that it’s simply there. They have a rough idea of its size—about 186 miles wide—but not much else is known.
Because it has similar orbital behavior as previously discovered distant objects, scientists believe it’s just one more piece of evidence that suggests the existence of a mysterious planet—the cause of that similar behavior.
If Planet X does exist, it’s still too far away for modern telescopes to confirm for sure. Only time and advancing technology will be able to confirm its existence unequivocally.