With the dubious icy planet finally bidding adieu to the solar system in 2006, researchers are claiming to have to found another planet similar to our previous 9th neighbor Pluto. Though the planet’s identity and its full conformability as a planet in the solar systems is still under scrutiny, the astronomers who discovered and studied the planet for the last few years are fairly certain, that this might be our next new neighbor in the lonely universe. They have even officially named it after the United States Vice President Joe Biden, as 2012 VP113. The only question now is, is this planet for real? If so how long is it going to stay? Also are there other planets similar to this in the ever mysterious Kuiper belt? Well, the article discusses all the latest findings on the above questions.
The not so easy task
With over trillions of stars in the universe and more than a dozen billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy itself, one might be drawn into the conclusion that planets are quite abundant. But, the truth of the fact, planets are not as numerous as one might think. By a rough estimate, scientists believe that there may be just a few millions sizable planets in the entire universe. And we as humans only know of a tiny fraction of them. So the discovery of any planet, especially one so close to us, is without a doubt a truly exciting discovery. But there have been other discoveries of planet like objects such as the 2012 VP113 in the exterior edges of the solar system before, like the Sedna. So what exactly makes this any different?
The 2012 VP113
Before we look into the mystery behind the planet, let’s take a closer look in to its finer details. The planet was first observed in 2012, hence the name, by astronomers Chadwick Trujillo and Sheppard from the National optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) at Chile. The planet was discovered to be on a varying elliptic trajectory around the sun, using the Magellan telescope at the Las Campanas Observatory. The exact location of the planet is believed to be beyond what was previously thought the edge of the solar system. So the discovery of the planet has now expanded the extent our solar system well into the inner Oort clouds. The planet, unlike the other objects found in the region such as Pluto and Sedna, is not entirely made or ice and gases, but is also believed to constitute a rocky mass. But the most interesting part that has stirred the spirits of the astronomers is its trajectory.
The silent planet
The orbit of the 2012 VP113 around the sun is quite interesting as it seems to be on a really elongated elliptical trajectory, which gives a hint that it’s not just orbiting the sun but may also be in contact with another giant mass of body. Researchers believe that it could be a large planet, completely unilluminated and too far away, that is silently orbiting the sun beyond the Oortclouds. The details of it are quite unclear, but astronomers have already begun to point their telescopes in that direction.
Is this the beginning or the End?
Astronomers have been spending a lot of time in the past trying to find the edge of the solar system, even though many experts believe it would similar to finding the edge of an ever growing metropolitan city. Now this discovery of the 2012 VP113, and looming presence of another planet, have definitely given an inspiration and a message to astronomers, that they are far from finding the edge of our solar system.