Did you know that a strange object was found beyond Neptune’s orbit? Michele Bannister, an astronomer from Belfast, tweeted this:
What is a TNO? It stands for a trans-Neptunian object, a celestial body that orbits past Neptune in the outer part of the solar system. It is 160,000 times less bright than Neptune because this icy planet could be even less than 200 kilometers in diameter.
The TNO is above the orbital plane of the solar system and is moving further in the upward direction with each passing day, a feature that makes it peculiar. Its orbital plane is tilted 110 degrees with respect to the plane of our solar system. Furthermore, unlike other planets and objects in the solar system, it orbits around the Sun in the backward direction. Due to its odd behavior, the team that discovered the TNO has fittingly nicknamed it “Niku,” a Chinese word for rebellious.
A flat plane is the signature of our solar system. Imagine a formation of a star where the gas clouds and stardust is circling it in a flat plane. This means that if any object does not follow the flat-level path of the planetary system, it has been knocked off from its course and hit in the opposite direction by another force.
“Angular momentum forces everything to have that one spin direction all the same way,” says Bannister. “It’s the same thing with a spinning top, every particle is spinning the same direction.”
“It suggests that there’s more going on in the outer solar system than we’re fully aware of,” says Matthew Holman, an Astrophysicist and member of the team that discovered Niku using the Pan-STARRS 1 – Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System 1 Survey.
Whenever there is something new that is hard to explain, it is equally thrilling for the astronomers.
“Whenever you have some feature that you can’t explain in the outer solar system, it’s immensely exciting because it’s in some sense foreshadowing a new development,” says Konstantin Batygin at the CalTech, California.
Batygin is one of the two people who discovered an object that was 10 times more bigger than Earth and is also highly inclined with respect to our solar system. It was called the Planet Nine. But why was Niku knocked off from its course? No one knows yet. Astronomers have even tested if Niku was part of the Planet Nine group, but it isn’t.