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Mysterious Minor Planet "Niku" Orbits Beyond Neptune

Aug 12, 2016 02:52 AM EDT
Planet Neptune
A new minor planet called Niku was discovered orbiting in an odd tilt beyond Neptune.
(Photo : Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

There's more to the universe than what man already know. A new minor planet was discovered beyond Neptune, but how it reached there is mystifying scientists as one theory suggests that it was bumped into its odd orbit by another larger planet.

Astronomers discovered the object called "Niku" that is considered as a minor planet that orbits beyond Neptune. A lot of new celestial bodies are recently being discovered beyond Neptune and in the Kuiper belt.

Niku follows an "odd" orbit that is tilted at 110 degrees, different from the usual tilt of other planets in the Solar System. This is enough to prove the astronomers' belief that there could be many other planets lurking on the edges of the Solar System that men are yet to discover. This is the reason behind its name Niku derived from the Chinese word that means rebellious. Niku is believed to belong to a different cluster of planetoids that belong to the similar orbits.

Adding to the mystery, Niku is also spinning backward in the opposite direction compared to the rest of the planets, according to Engadget.

Niku is about 124 miles (200 km) across. And because of its unique tilted orbit, Niku is orbiting high above the flat orbital disk separate from the rest of the planets in the Solar System. What makes Niku more interesting is that astronomers believe that it could have been bumped beyond Neptune by something larger, potentially by another dwarf planet like asteroid Ceres of dwarf planet Pluto.

But despite the lack of proof to confirm the above-mentioned theory, astronomers and scientists anticipate the further study of Niku since it might pave the way for the discovery of other planetary systems, dwarf planet or even the theoretical planet nine.

"It suggests that there's more going on in the outer solar system than we're fully aware of," Dr. Matthew Holman, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics said in an interview.


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