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SQ372, Welcome to the Solar System

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A team of astronomers has found a new member to the solar system. They announced the discovery in Chicago yesterday.

The thing is about as wide as Cook County is tall. It circles the Sun every 22,000 years or so, and it’s somewhere between a comet and a planet. Its name, rather less majestic than neighboring Neptune, is:

KAIB: 2006 SQ372

That’s Nate Kaib, a PhD student at the University of Washington and part of the team that discovered the object. He says what makes SQ372 so important is that it probably came from a region in space that’s long existed only in theory: the Inner Oort Cloud. That shell of icy chunks surrounding the Solar System could shed light on the earth’s early days.

KAIB: All this material was originally leftover building blocks of the original set of planets we have in the solar system. And so the Oort Cloud can tell us information about how the planets formed.

Kaib says new sky surveys could soon reveal many more objects flung from the Oort Cloud.

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