Astronomers have discovered what they believe to be a planetoid orbiting the sun that has never been seen before.The New York Times reports that the planetoid, dubbed VP113, lies beyond Neptune and even further past the icy ring known as the Kuiper Belt. The planetoid was originally spotted in 2012 by Dr. Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, DC and his colleagues, and is estimated to measure about 250 miles wide.
At its closest point, VP113 sits about 7.7 billion miles away from the sun, but it orbits out to 42 billion miles away. That pushes it much further out into space than Neptune, which lies 2.8 billion miles from the sun. Researchers are classifying the discovery as a sednoid, a planetoid that lies beyond the Kuiper Belt with a wide-stretching orbit. After discovering the first sednoid, Sedna, researchers believed they would find more quickly, but that didn’t happen — V113 and Sedna are the only two that have been discovered so far. They don’t know for sure how sednoids came to be, since it was previously thought that the area between the Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud was just empty space. Researchers have a theory that sednoids were pushed out into that part of space when the sun was part of a dense star cloud.
But another theory suggests that something bigger lies beyond the belt: some believe that a rogue planet that was ejected from the inner solar system dragged the sednoids with it.VP113 shares some parameters with Sedna, which suggests the gravitational influence of a larger planet. A computer simulation showed that there could be an unseen planet five times the size of Earth lying 23 billion miles away from the sun, influencing VP113 and maybe even other sednoids that have yet to be discovered. That, however, is just a theory, and researchers say that while they believe something is happening in the far corners of space, they’ll need to find many more planetoids like VP113 to definitively prove anything.