New Dwarf Planet Found Beyond Sedna

Posted on March 27, 2014

2012 VP113 images taken w DECam and CTIO 4

Astronomers have discovered a new dwarf planet beyond the edge of the known solar system. The new planet, 2012 VP113, is located in the inner Oort cloud. It is located beyond the orbit of Sedna, a dwarf planet discovered beyond the Kuiper Belt edge in 2003. 2012 VP113's closest orbit point to the Sun brings it to about 80 times the distance of the Earth from the Sun. The images above show the discovery of the new inner Oort cloud object 2012 VP113 taken about 2 hours apart on UT November 5, 2012 with the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) on the CTIO 4 meter telescope in Chile. The findings, by Carnegie's Scott Sheppard and Chadwick Trujillo, were published here in the journal, Nature.

In the diagram below the Sun is the yellow dot in the center. The orbits of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are shown by purple solid circles. The Kuiper Belt is designated by the dotted blue region. Sedna's orbit is shown in orange and 2012 VP113's orbit is shown in red.

Sedna and 2012 VIP113 orbits shown in relation to sun

Linda Elkins-Tanton, director of Carnegie's Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, says in a statement, "This is an extraordinary result that redefines our understanding of our Solar System."

Sheppard says, "The search for these distant inner Oort cloud objects beyond Sedna and 2012 VP113 should continue, as they could tell us a lot about how our Solar System formed and evolved."

The scientists say there could be a much larger object out there near the edge of the Kuiper Belt. There could even be a Super Earth or even larger object. The astronomers say in a release that the "similarity in the orbits found for Sedna, 2012 VP113 and a few other objects near the edge of the Kuiper Belt suggests that an unknown massive perturbing body may be shepherding these objects into these similar orbital configurations."

Images: Scott S. Sheppard/Carnegie Institution for Science

More from Science Space & Robots