Over 100 minor planets found lurking at the edge of our Solar System – in darkness beyond Neptune
SCIENTISTS have surprised themselves by finding over 100 minor planets at the edge of our Solar System.
The experts worked with data collected during the Dark Energy Survey to successfully identify 316 minor planets and 139 were unknown until now.
The discoveries were made using new techniques to analyse old data.
The Dark Energy Survey actually ran between August 2013 and January 2019.
Its aim was to map dark energy in the southern sky but it provided more data that scientists initially realised.
The expansion of the Universe is thought to be influenced by dark energy so the survey aimed to look for things like galaxy clusters and supernovae to try and calculate how fast expansion is happening.
However, the depth and precision of the survey proved useful for detecting minor planets.
Minor planets include things like asteroids and dwarf planets.
Scientists now claim there are lots of these beyond Neptune, the furthest planet from the Sun.
They haven't been spotted until now because the trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) are small.
The region they lie in is also dark and very far away.
Seven of the newly discovered TNOs are being referred to as extreme TNOs because they could be the most distant Solar System objects ever seen.
The new precise method of the researchers enabled them to whittle down 7 billion dots of data to 316 minor planets.
They plan to use their method on more data in the future.
There are hopes that a method like this could help researchers come across evidence for Planet Nine.
Planet Nine is a hypothetical planet which some people suspect is at the edge of our Solar System and use detections of unusual gravitational effects as evidence of its existence.
Physicist and astronomer Gary Bernstein of the University of Pennsylvania said: "There are lots of ideas about giant planets that used to be in the Solar System and aren't there anymore.
"Or planets that are far away and massive but too faint for us to have noticed yet.
"Making the catalogue is the fun discovery part.
"Then when you create this resource; you can compare what you did find to what somebody's theory said you should find."
This research has been published in The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series.
Here's what you need to know…
- Neptune is the furthest planet from the Sun
- A year on Neptune lasts 165 Earth years because of how slow it orbits
- Neptune was first observed in 1846 and was named after the Roman god of the sea
- Neptune has 14 moons
- Only one spacecraft has flown near Neptune and that was the Voyager 2 spacecraft in 1989
In other space news, Elon Musk has said he wants to set up a mega-city on Mars before he dies.
A huge space contraption is gearing up to scan alien atmospheres and peer back to the dawn of time.
And, a nearby golden asteroid could make everyone on Earth a billionaire – and Nasa has hired Elon Musk to visit it.
What do you think of this planet discovery? Let us know in the comments…
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