Planet 9: How To Measure Something Yet To Be Discovered

Admittedly, “Planet 9” is a much cooler name than if we searching for “Planet 10”, and I liked Pluto (Revolve In Peace 1930-2006). But since Pluto has been declassified as a planet the search continues and at least two scientists think that with the Cassini Spacecraft’s help they may find it within a year or two.


How do we know Planet 9 is there?

Caltech planetary scientists Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin presented proof of Planet 9’s existence owing to its gravitational effect on objects located in the Kuiper Belt. These icy bodies that orbit the sun beyond the orbit of Neptune are being pulled affected by something and that something is a “Planet 9” which scientists believe has a super-elongated orbit that could take as many as 20,000 years to complete.

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The Cassini spacecraft, which is orbiting Saturn having deployed its probe to Saturn’s largest moon Titan. But recently, slight perturbations in Cassini’s orbit have been detected. Large asteroids and the eight planets in our solar system have been accounted for, and they are not the cause of these perturbations.

As the Cassini is in a fairly recent orbit, these gravitational effects on its orbit have given scientists somewhere specific to look in the search for Planet 9. And, at present, scientists are focusing their attentions about 55 billion miles away while looking toward the direction of the constellation Cetus.

“I am optimistic that if this ninth planet exists, it will be discovered in the next 2-3 years,” Dr. Dimitris Stamatellos of the University of Central Lancashire recently told  the Cyprus News Agency Monday.

While some look for Planet 9, others measure it?

Many believe that when discovered, Planet 9 will be about 10 times the size of Earth and a long ways away when/if found.

Measuring a putative (great word) planet is no easy measure, but that is not dissuading Astrophysics professor Christoph Mordasini and his Ph.D. student Esther Linder, both of the University of Bern in Switzerland, from trying.

While Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin continue the search, these two are more interested in telling us that is will likely be a small “ice giant” similar to Neptune and Uranus with a hydrogen and helium atmosphere.

A study from the to has been accepted for publication by journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Mordasini and Linder are working with the gravitation effects on the Kuiper Belt objects that Brown and Batygin have put forward.

Using the 10-Earth-mass suggestions given by Brown and Batygin, this team estimates that Planet 9 will be 3.7 times wider than Earth with temperatures just shy of negative 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

“This means that the planet’s emission is dominated by the cooling of its core; otherwise, the temperature would only be 10 Kelvin,” Linder said in a statement after their paper was accepted for publication.

“With our study, candidate Planet Nine is now more than a simple point mass; it takes shape, having physical properties,” Mordasini said in the same statement.

The two researchers also believe that their modeling may help the search attempts of others. They grant that sky surveys already undertaken would not have found Planet 9 at 10 Earth Masses, and that less than 20 Earth Masses would have been a stretch as well. Since we don’t know where Planet 9 is in its orbit the task is even tougher. If Planet 9 is near its aphelion (farthest point from the sun in its orbit) it may prove an exhausting search.

NASA’s Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer satellite would likely have found a 50 Earth mass planet by now, but nothing near 10 Earth-masses.

“This puts an interesting upper mass limit for the planet,” Linder said.

The hope, at present that once the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, presently under construction in Chile, once online will find Planet 9, or in a moment of desperate disappointment destroy the theories of the aforementioned four scientists and others by proving that it doesn’t exist at all.