Imagine a ninth planet lurking in the outer fringes of the solar system. Far, far away, beyond the orbit of Pluto. That’s what astronomers at the California Institute of Technology have announced in a paper published in the Astronomical Journal.
No, they didn’t directly observe the planet, but deduced its possible existence by studying the motions of dwarf planets and other smaller objects in the outer solar system. Those small bodies seem to be influenced by a massive presence, which is now being called “Planet Nine.”
Interesting that the one of the authors, Michael Brown, was the one whose work led to the downgrading of the erstwhile ninth planet, Pluto. (Trivia: his twitter handle is @plutokiller)
Brown and Batygin estimate this planet to be close to a giant, between two to four times the diameter of Earth, and it is on an average 20 times farther away from Neptune. It is expected to be icy and thought to be formed from the core of one of the gas giants.
And guess how long it takes to orbit the sun? About 20,000 years.
Now, telescopes are searching for the object, but since it is so far away, it would reflect very little sunlight and could be difficult to locate even with the most powerful telescopes.
Here’s hoping a global planet hunt ensues and we locate this distant member of the solar system soon.
Check out this interview of the two researchers: