While the majority of the world are under quarantine or trying to fight against the coronavirus, a group of scientists from the University of Pennsylvania discovered a whopping 139 new minor planets in our solar system!
Minor planets are too small to be considered planets but too big to be just classified as space rocks. They’re called “trans-Neptunian Objects” (TNOs) and the most famous of them is Pluto, which was formerly classified as a planet.
These TNOs are found in the orbit of the Kuiper Belt, a region in our solar system that is beyond the eight major planets. This finding could lead scientists to find the hypothetical “Planet Nine”, a planet that is believed to be causing strange gravitational effects on a cluster of TNOs beyond Neptune’s orbit.
According to Prof. Gary Bernstein who was the co-lead of the team that made this discovery, “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.”
The scientists used data from the Dark Energy Survey (DES), an international collaborative effort to map hundreds of millions of galaxies. Since DES wasn’t initially designed to find TNOs, the researchers improvised a way to detect them. This new technique can be used in other astronomical surveys such as the Vera C. Rubin Observatory being constructed in Chile.
Doesn’t this make you wonder what other things can our scientists find in our mysterious solar system?