The new estimates about the size of the solar system have come from the on-going search for a possible ninth planet orbiting the Sun (Pluto was, a few years ago, downgraded to a dwarf planet). Part of this search has thrown up some unusual data.
The key outcome is that the solar system is bigger than previous findings suggested. This is based around the furthest object that takes an orbit around the Sun, based on the Sun’s gravitational pull. This edge of the solar system is well past Pluto and even beyond the Kuiper Belt
(a circumstellar disc in the Solar System beyond the planets, composed of frozen volatiles and dwarf planets).
New data suggests there
are objects orbiting around our Sun at up to 200 times further away than the Earth. This means the beginning of interstellar space is much further out. This comes as astronomers are recording more and more strange objects in the outer reaches.
Very little is known about these objects and they display strange, or at least irregular, orbital paths. The most distant of these objects has been coded 2012-VP113 (nicknamed “Biden”). This extreme trans-Neptunian object could be the ninth planet.
One reason why finding such objects is so difficult is because the light from the Sun is so faint, making spotting and charting the bodies on the fringes of the solar system so difficult.
One of the astronomers involved, Dr. Scott Sheppard, told Laboratory Roots
: “Objects found far beyond Neptune hold the key to unlocking our Solar System’s origins and evolution.”
Dr. Sheppared then added: “Though we believe there are thousands of these small objects, we haven’t found very many of them yet, because they are so far away. The smaller objects can lead us to the much bigger planet we think exists out there. The more we discover, the better we will be able to understand what is going on in the outer Solar System.”
The new findings have been published in The Astronomical Journal
. The paper is titled "Evidence for a distant giant planet in the solar system."