The strange behavior of Niku is baffling atronomer's who are trying to find out what exactly could be influencing it.
A strange object detected beyond the planet Neptune is baffling scientists, not because of what it is, but by how it’s acting.
The trans-Neptunian object (TNO) aptly named Niku – the Chinese word for ‘rebellious’ – is a small, rocky object measuring 124 miles in diameter and is orbiting on the edge of our solar system located just beyond Neptune. There’s nothing new about discovering a TNO as there are many of them littering space but this one is not behaving the way a normal TNO would, according to a New Scientist report.
The first strange behavior noted by astronomer’s using the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System 1 Survey (Pan-STARRS 1), is that it orbits at 110 degrees to the plane of all the other celestial objects in the solar system. Not only that but it is actually orbiting in the opposite direction.
The team think they have a theory: Niku was probably knocked off its natural orbit by another object which the team says shows there’s a lot going on in the universe than we are currently aware of.
It is thought that the (yet undiscovered) Planet Nine believed to be ten times bigger than Earth and located in the far outer solar system could be influencing Niku’s orbiting behaviors although this is only a theory. However, if this ninth planet does exist, Niku could lie outside of the hypothetical planet’s gravitational influence according to model suggestions.
While it’s not fully known why Niku is acting in this peculiar way, the team from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics headed by astrophysicist Matthew Holman have high hopes figuring it out will help understand a little bit more about our greatly unknown universe.