Years after astronomers demoted Pluto after deciding it no longer lived up to its classification as a planet, a new type of celestial body in our solar system has gained prominence. The first so-called sednoid, a planet located beyond the Kuiper Belt far past Neptune, was discovered more than a decade ago. Recently, the second such orbiting body was found, giving scientists a better idea of what is located in the furthest reaches of our sun’s gravitational pull.
The sednoid is estimated to sit about 7.7 billion miles away from the sun, or almost three times further than Neptune, at its closest point. At some points in its orbit, however, the tiny globe extends 42 billion miles from its anchor.
The Carnegie Institution for Science’s Dr. Scott Sheppard first identified the planet in 2012, prompting further study on what represents just the second of its kind ever observed.
It is still considered too early to determine how these two bodies – and possibly more like them – came into existence. Some experts suggest they were part of cosmic debris caused during the formation of the sun while others think they might have been taxied in along with a rogue planet that invaded our system.
In any case, the discovery of these planets disproves a widely held belief that the expanse beyond the Kuiper Belt was void.
While the first sednoid received the name ‘Sedna,’ the most recent received the somewhat less poetic name VP113.
The fact that the 250-mile wide rock was saddled with the alphanumeric moniker, however, did not dissuade scientists from giving it a playful nickname. At first, they began calling it simply VP, which then transformed into its current sobriquet, ‘Biden.’
To recap, VP113 is in itself an inconsequential adjunct, far from any position of influence within the orbit of legitimate planets in our solar system. Furthermore, it is unclear how it attained its current position. Finally, it exists within a vast expanse of darkness and, throughout its orbit, is pushed increasingly further away from the center.
Given those attributes, it seems the nickname is quite appropriate.
–B. Christopher Agee
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This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom