Image via – http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/90377_Sedna
Ten years of searching has resulted in astronomers finding a second, dwarf-like planet, far beyond Pluto, in what had been thought to be a no-man’s land beyond the Kuiper Belt, though just how the 2003 discovered Sedna, and the freshly, Minor Planet Centre designated 2012 VP 2113 came to orbit so far from the sun is a mystery yet to be solved.
The distance between the sun and our planet is known as one astronomical unit – AU – and Sedna comes no closer to the sun than about 76 AUs, and when furthest away in the 11,400-year orbit is about 1,000 AUs distant, though VP 2113’s closest approach is some 80 AUs and its greatest distance is 452 AUs, this planetoid a mere 450 kilometres across, under half the estimated size of Sedna, though in truth, neither body can be explained.
The current structure of the solar system comprises four rocky planets, four outer gas giant planets, a disk of small, icy Kuiper belt objects beyond Neptune, as well as the comet-rich Oort Cloud located – 10,000 times farther from the sun than is the Earth. Astronomer Megan Schwamb speculates that a sister star to the sun gravitationally nudged some Oort Cloud inward, or else another Earth-size planet was ejected from the solar system, taking Kuiper Belt objects into far more distant orbits along its path – this could indeed even be the much vaunted Planet X.
Astronomers do in fact harbour thoughts that several Earth-mass sized planets formed in the giant planets region, but for unknown reasons did not remain in place. They could potentially have broken up, and the Hawaiian Gemini Observatory ii currently working to try confirming the existence of six more objects, discovered last year, that have planetoid potential.
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