Astronomers who suggest that a hidden planet known as "Planet X" or "Planet Nine" influences the coming and going of icy objects beyond Neptune say we may soon be looking into the distant, mysterious world.
A 92-page paper to be published in Physics Reports, a team of Caltech researchers investigates the evidence for the existence of Planet X and describes a world that is closer and smaller than previously thought.
Almost a decade after poor Pluto was disembarked Nine planet to only one of many dwarf planet, a fascinating article was published by one of the "Pluto-killing" astronomers and his former students , The hypothesis suggested that Planet X lurks even larger, unseen
"Three years ago, we knew the orbits were very distant objects of the Kuiper belt," said Konstantin Batygin, the younger half of the duo, on Tuesday in an email. "And we were able to use computer simulations to show that the only reasonable reason for this clustering was the existence of Planet Nine."
The idea is that the distant objects mentioned by Batygin are influenced by the magnetism of a large planet. Somewhere in the outer field of the solar system orbiting.
Now CalTech's Batygin, his former mentor Michael Brown (aka " PlutoKiller " in social media) and his colleagues Fred Brown and Juliette Becker from the University of Michigan have an update for us. And if their theory holds the water, it would radically redefine how we envision our solar system.
"Our new efforts, both theoretically and numerically, suggest that in the original work we overestimated the parameters of Planet Nine," Batygin explained.
The new analysis draws a picture of a planet whose mass is five times larger like that of the earth and about 400 astronomical units (AU) away. For comparison, Pluto is only about 40 AU from us. The authors also conclude that the invisible planet will be more of a rocky super-earth than a gas giant. But the prospects for habitability are pretty bad, of course, just as the sun would be at such a distance.
"Although this analysis does not say anything directly about Planet Nine, it does suggest that the hypothesis is based on a solid foundation," said Brown, a professor of planetary astronomy at Caltech, in a publication.
The paper also attempts to address some of the criticisms of the planet-nine hypothesis and alternative explanations for the crazes observed in the Kuiper Belt. For example, Batygin and his colleagues are not convinced by a competing theory stating that a huge debris disc beyond Neptune could explain the odd orbits of distant Kuiper Belt objects and an invisible Super Earth.
"The strongest argument for Planet Nine is that all independent evidence can be explained by a proposed new planet with the same characteristics, in other words, there are several reasons to believe that Planet Nine is not just fair, but really" said co-author Fred Adams.
If Planet X exists, as described in the latest release, it will also be an important missing element of our solar system.
Like the Catalog of Known Exoplanets Other stars have grown rapidly in the last decade. It has become increasingly clear that our system is actually quite unusual. This is because rocky super-earths seem to be very common elsewhere, although there are none in our solar system.
"Planet Nine will be the next thing we find closest to a window into the characteristics of a typical planet of our galaxy," explained Batygin.
But he admits that all speculation about Planet X will persist until someone discovers it.
"The prospect of seeing real pictures of Planet Nine one day is absolutely electrifying," he says. "Although it is a big challenge to find Planet Nine astronomically, I am very optimistic that we will introduce it within the next decade."