A team of astronomers from Queens University, Belfast spotted a strange TNO or trans-Neptunian object about 5.3 billion kilometers away from the sun. According to the team, unlike other major objects in the solar system, this object, aptly nicknamed Niku (which means rebellious in Chinese), is orbiting around the sun backwards.
As of now, the research team cannot explain why Niku goes in this direction. Some have even speculated that an unknown dwarf planet in the area or even Planet Nine could be causing this strange movement, but they did not find any.
Thus far, they know that the trans-Neptunian object is almost vertical or tilted at 110 degrees. It is less than 200 kilometers in diameter. Moreover, the trans-Neptunian object is 160, 000 times fainter than Neptune.
“It suggests that there’s more going on in the outer solar system than we’re fully aware of,” points out the study’s co-author Matthew Holman at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics during an interview with New Scientist. Holman is part of the team that discovered the mysterious object using the telescope located on Haleakala, Maui.
The findings were made using the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System 1 Survey (Pan-STARRS 1) in Hawaii. The study still needs to be peer-reviewed but is already available online in ArXiv.
Holman says that the finding suggests that there could be more going on in the edge of our solar system. There could be another orbital plane, which some of the minor planets in the outer solar system, known as Centaurs, could also belong to.
The research team says that further research is needed. Nevertheless, Michele Bannister, an astronomer at Queens University, looks forward to what theoretical analysts may say about this.
A video about the object was posted on YouTube. As of now, more than 200,000 have viewed it.