Too good to check: Newest dwarf planet nicknamed ‘Biden’ by astronomers

Too good to check: Newest dwarf planet nicknamed ‘Biden’ by astronomers

Astronomers have discovered a probable dwarf planet that orbits the Sun far beyond Pluto, in the most distant trajectory known. …

Together with Sedna, a similar extreme object discovered a decade ago, the find is reshaping ideas about how the Solar System came to be. “It goes to show that there’s something we don’t know about our Solar System, and it’s something important,” says co-discoverer Chad Trujillo, an astronomer at Gemini Observatory in Hilo, Hawaii. “We’re starting to get a taste of what’s out beyond what we consider the edge.” …

The newfound object’s official name is 2012 VP113, but the discovery team calls it VP for short, or just ‘Biden’ — after US Vice-President Joe Biden. In several years time, after observations have pinned down its orbit, the scientists will submit a name for consideration by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the organization in charge of celestial nomenclature.

The classical planetary portion of the Solar System ends at Neptune, which orbits the Sun at about 30 times the Earth–Sun distance, a cosmic yardstick known as an astronomical unit (AU). One AU is approximately 150 million kilometres. Beyond Neptune is a realm of icy bodies, known as the Kuiper belt, that includes Pluto. This region stretches from roughly 30 to 50 AU. And beyond that lies the Oort cloud, with Sedna at its inner edge and comets farther out.

Sedna never gets any closer to the Sun than 76 AU. 2012 VP113, although still in the inner Oort cloud, is even more remote: at its closest, it is 80 AU away.

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