Scientists have discovered hundreds of new objects in the outer solar system using an instrument designed to probe an unexplained source of energy in the universe.
The results reveal new insights about the mysterious expanse beyond Neptune, including the possibility that a massive undiscovered planet may be lurking in these dark outer reaches. A team led by Pedro Bernardinelli, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Washington, scanned the outer solar system for six years with the Dark Energy Survey (DES),
a Chile-based astronomy program whose primary objective is understanding dark energy, an unknown force that’s driving the accelerated expansion of the universe. The DES normally works on mind-boggling cosmic scales, but Bernardinelli and his team were able to shed light on enigmas that are much closer to home within our own solar system.
The researchers have used the survey to discover a total of 815 trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs), which are minor bodies beyond Neptune, 416 of which are reported for the first time in a new paper published on the preprint server arXiv.
“Searching for TNOs in the DES images presents challenges since it was not optimized for this purpose,” the team notes in the study. “Despite this, the DES sample is comparable in number of objects to the largest predecessor TNO-targeted surveys” and has provided findings that “are relevant to more detailed hypotheses of the formation of the outer Solar System.” READ MORE