updated - October 24, 2020 Saturday EDT
Astronomers have discovered a pink, frozen dwarf planet 7.5 billion miles away from the sun.
The object is the second dwarf planet to be found in an area of space beyond Pluto, which has been considered a wasteland for celestial objects, according to Mercury News. Before this discovery, the only known object in this area was the dwarf planet Sedna, which was found in 2003 and named after the mythological Inuit goddess who created Arctic sea creatures.
The orbit of the dwarf planet, originally called 2012 VP113 for being found in images taken in November 2012, hints at a huge, unseen planet, 10 times the mass of Earth and orbiting way beyond Pluto, NewScientist reported.
Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington D.C. and his fellow researchers discovered that VP is 450 kilometers wide, and its distance from the sun is twice as far as Pluto, which is 2,340 kilometers wide.
Sheppard also worked with Chad Trujillo of the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii, who was part of the team of researchers that discovered Sedna, Mercury News reported. The dwarf planet was given the name 'Biden' after Vice President Joe Biden as a joke because of the initial. VP was pink and faint, making it hard to find, unlike Sedna, which was red and shiny.
VP lies in the inner Oort cloud, which is in the outer edge of the solar system. The area is thought to be the origin of some comets, such as the comet ISON which broke apart last year after moving too close to the sun.
Objects in the inner Oort cloud can help in exploring the early solar system since they lie too far away to be unsettled by the gas planets, but too close to the sun to be affected by the gravity of other stars in the galaxy, NewScientist reported. This results in their orbits being almost unchanged since their formation.
"Once we find more objects in this region, we'll be able to start to strongly constrain the possible formation scenarios," Sheppard said.
The research team believed the pull of a rocky "Super-Earth" caused the alignment of VP, Sedna and other objects, although a Super-Earth with the right qualities has yet to be discovered.
Sheppard and Trujillo believe there are thousands of similar objects to VP in the inner Oort cloud, Mercury News reported.
"These objects are not unique," Sheppard said. "There's a huge number out there."
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