SURPRISE, SPACE NERDS: IT’S HIGHLY LIKELY WE’LL, IN THE NOT-TOO-DISTANT FUTURE, ADD A 9TH PLANET TO OUR SOLAR SYSTEM.
Researchers now believe a gas-covered world – which they’ve nicknamed “Planet 9” – has been hiding out in the deepest depths of our solar system forever, which is funny cause the thing is a fkn monster at 10 times the weight of Earth.
Space sleuths have been searching for just such a planet for more than a century, with no luck, but the discovery of mini-worlds in the comet belt beyond Pluto have kept their interest piqued.
An extremely rare alignment – as in, one with odds of about 0.0007% – of six dwarf planets tilted 30 degrees away from the orbits of the sun’s planets made California Institute of Technology’s Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown think there *had* to be something else out there.
“Basically it shouldn’t happen randomly,” Brown said in a statement. “So we thought something else must be shaping these orbits.”
That something is most likely our new and 9th planet, which follows an elongated orbit about 20 times farther out than Neptune (which orbits 280 billion miles from the sun), they concluded.
“This would be a real ninth planet,” says Brown. “There have only been two true planets discovered since ancient times, and this would be a third. It’s a pretty substantial chunk of our solar system that’s still out there to be found, which is pretty exciting.”
Batygin and Brown discovered the planet’s existence through mathematical modeling and computer simulations but are yet to actually find it; only the planet’s rough orbit is known, not its precise location, which means its discovery is up for grabs by anyone with access to the two biggest telescopes in the world and an equally large brain.
“I would love to find it,” says Brown. “But I’d also be perfectly happy if someone else found it.”
Source: The Astronomical Journal.
Photo: Artistic rendering courtesy of Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC).