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Scientist can't explain weird mystery object beyond Neptune

Staff Writer |
Scientists have discovered a mysterious object located on the outskirts of the Solar System. Named Niku, it appears to be a minor planet that exists past Neptune but it is very strange.

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A bizarre new object, less than 124 miles (200km) across, has a strange tilted orbit that sends it high above the flat orbital disk of the rest of the solar system.

While nearly all the objects in our Solar System orbit the Sun in the same direction – the prograde direction – Niku opposes the trend, with a retrograde orbit of the Sun.

"It suggests that there's more going on in the outer Solar System than we're fully aware of," astrophysicist Matthew Holman from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics explained to Shannon Hall at New Scientist.

Holman was part of an international team of scientists that discovered Niku, using the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) in Maui, Hawaii.

The extreme faintness of the object – it's 160,000 times fainter than Neptune – suggests Niku is relatively small, perhaps less than 200 kilometres in diameter. But the real mystery is its bizarre orbit against the flow of everything else in the Solar System, and at a strange angle.

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