New Discovery Planet Nine

MOUNTING EVIDENCE IN FAVOUR OF EXISTENCE OF “PLANET NINE”

Artist’s impression of what the theoretical Planet 9 could look like. Credit: NASA

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Discussion around the possible existence of Planet 9 has been going around ever since astronomers Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin published the first evidence that there might be another planet in our Solar System in January of 2016. This hypothetical celestial body, which was referred to as just “Planet 9”, was estimated to be about 10 times the size of planet Earth. Planet 9 was estimated to orbit the Sun at an average distance of 700 AU.

Opinion in the scientific world continues to be divided about the existence or otherwise of “Planet 9”. The group that believes in the possibility of existence of “Planet 9” argue that the orbits of certain Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs) are adequate proof of the  existence of this new planet. On the other hand, the group that continues to be sceptical of its existence, argue that these studies suffer from an observational bias.

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Artist’s impression of Planet Nine, blocking out the Milky Way. The Sun is in the distance, with the orbit of Neptune shown as a ring. Credit: ESO/Tomruen/nagualdesign

A new study, by a pair of astronomers from the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM), throws fresh light on “Planet 9” and  may well offer sufficient new insight that could help to settle the debate once and for all. This new study, conducted by the team of Doctors Carlos and Raul de la Fuente Marcos, uses a new technique that focuses on extreme TNOs (ETNO)s and was recently published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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Animated diagram showing the spacing of the Solar Systems planet’s, the unusually closely spaced orbits of six of the most distant KBOs, and the possible “Planet 9”. Credit: Caltech/nagualdesign

Extreme Trans-Neptunian Objects or ETNOs are those Trans-Neptunian Objects that orbit the Sun at average distances greater than 150 AU, which means therefore that they never cross Neptune’s orbit.

The team from Complutense University of Madrid  indicate in their study that the distances between the ETNOs nodes and the Sun may point the way towards Planet 9. By measuring where these nodes are, the team believed they could tell whether or not the ETNOs are being perturbed by another object in the area.

A planetary mass object the size of Mars would be sufficient to produce the observed perturbations in the distant Kuiper Belt. Credit: Heather Roper/LPL

In an interview with The Information and Scientific News Service (SINC), Carlos de la Fuente Marcos, one of the authors on the study, said:

“If there is nothing to perturb them, the nodes of these extreme trans-Neptunian objects should be uniformly distributed, as there is nothing for them to avoid, but if there are one or more perturbers, two situations may arise. One possibility is that the ETNOs are stable, and in this case they would tend to have their nodes away from the path of possible perturbers, he adds, but if they are unstable they would behave as the comets that interact with Jupiter do, that is tending to have one of the nodes close to the orbit of the hypothetical perturber”.

Explaining his conclusions further, Carlos de la Fuente Marcos, added:

 “Assuming that the ETNOs are dynamically similar to the comets that interact with Jupiter, we interpret these results as signs of the presence of a planet that is actively interacting with them in a range of distances from 300 to 400 AU. We believe that what we are seeing here cannot be attributed to the presence of observational bias”.
“Given the current definition of planet, this other mysterious object may not be a true planet, even if it has a size similar to that of the Earth, as it could be surrounded by huge asteroids or dwarf planets. In any case, we are convinced that Volk and Malhotra’s work has found solid evidence of the presence of a massive body beyond the so-called Kuiper Cliff, the furthest point of the trans-Neptunian belt, at some 50 AU from the Sun, and we hope to be able to present soon a new work which also supports its existence”.
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Article Source: Universe Today