Scientists have discovered 139 previously unknown minor planets at the edge of the solar system beyond the orbit of Neptune, according to a report in Newsweek.
Researchers made the discovery as they analyzed data collected over a four-year period by the Dark Energy Survey, a project that was not designed to look for objects such as minor planets but rather to probe dark energy in the southern sky that was meant to further understand the dynamics of the universe's expansion.
However, according to the U.S. Sun, the depth and precision of the project turned out to aid greatly in finding minor planets, which include objects such as asteroids and dwarf planets.
A study published in The Astrophysical Journal Supplement said researchers actually identified 316 objects beyond the orbit of Neptune (known as TNOs), the farthest planet from the sun, with 139 of them never having been previously documented.
It has been difficult to find these TNOs because they are so small, but now astronomers are hopeful that this new method could prove useful in discovering evidence for Planet Nine, according to the U.S. Sun.
The possible existence of this planet was first suggested four years ago by two scientists who said such a planet could explain the unusual, highly elliptical orbits of a packed group of TNOs, Newsweek reported.
The scientists said that the usual models of how solar systems work do not provide an explanation for this unusual collection of orbits.
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