Mysterious mile-wide object spotted at edge of our solar system
A mysterious object with a 1.6 mile diameter has been spotted at the very edge of our Solar System – and it could offer important hints about how our planet formed.
Huge bodies similar to this have been predicted to exist for 70 years, but never spotted in our telescopes, until a blip was detected passing in front of a star.
Researchers believe that they acted as an important step in the planet formation process between small initial amalgamations of dust and ice and the planets we see today.
The object was seen in the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt, a collection of rocks and dwarf planets located beyond Neptune's orbit.
Objects in the dark and lonely belt are preserved as they were at the formation of the Solar System, largely unaffected by solar radiation, asteroids and gravity.
Researchers from the OASES (Organized Autotelescopes for Serendipitous Event Survey) team placed two small (28 cm) telescopes on the roof of the Miyako open-air school on Miyako Island, Miyakojima-shi, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan, and monitored approximately 2000 stars for a total of 60 hours.
Analyzing the data, the team found an event consistent with a star appearing to dim as a large Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt Object went in front of it.
This detection suggests that Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt Objects are more numerous than previously thought – and could mean that this is a key stage in the development of planets.
Ko Arimatsu explains, "This is a real victory for little projects. Our team had less than 0.3% of the budget of large international projects. We didn't even have enough money to build a second dome to protect our second telescope!
'Yet we still managed to make a discovery that is impossible for the big projects. Now that we know our system works, we will investigate the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt in more detail. We also have our sights set on the still undiscovered Oort Cloud out beyond that.'
This article first appeared on Yahoo UK