If you grew up at a time that there were nine planets in the Solar System taught during Science class, it was a little sad and discomforting when Pluto got demoted and there were only eight. Yet, it seems like the stars aligned and planets became visible to bring back what we used to believe in – that there are night planets.
(Image from California Institute of Technology)
According to two Caltech astronomers, they firmly believe that there are compelling signs that there might be a ninth planet that exists beyond Pluto, and it’s a big one at that.
Caltech astronomers Mike Brown (left) and Konstantin Batygin are the astronomers who believe in the compelling signs that Planet X exists. (Image from Caltech)
Known as Planet X for now, the astronomers theorize that it is like a small Neptune or about 10 times the size of Earth. They deemed that it hasn’t been noticed for a long time now because it orbits far out from the Sun on a highly elliptical path. It is so far out that it takes about 20,000 years to complete a full revolution.
If Planet X really exists, it is said to have a distance of 200 to 1,200 times the Earth’s distance from the Sun. The theorized size of the planet would also mean that it would have been very small to be detected by previous surveys of the Solar System like NASA’s Widefield Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE).
(Image from Nature)
Based on the study published in “The Astronomical Journal,” the astronomers pointed out the unusual movements of half a dozen small bodies in the Kuiper belt – a belt of comets, asteroids, and other icy bodies that lies beyond Neptune. The orbits of these objects shown in the diagram above reportedly loop outward in the same quadrant of the Solar System and show similar tilt angles. It seems like they are being pushed into those trajectories by the gravity of a larger body , against the rest of the Kuiper belt.
Mind you, this isn’t the first time that claims the possibility of a planet lurking beyond Neptune. In 1905, Percival Lowell predicted a planet, which lead to the discovery of Pluto. However, it is far too small to be what Lowell thought was out there.
According to the astronomers, there a chance that telescope facilities around the world can spot this planet so they encourage those who have access to begin the search.
Yet, this is still a speculation. And until someone really sees Planet X, for all we know there are just eight planets in the Solar System.
What do you think of this discovery? Are you also feeling for Pluto?