If you thought there was more in our solar system than what we saw in our school books then you may be right. No, we’re not talking about aliens. We’re talking about Planet Nine. Of course, if you came up through school the same time I did then Planet Nine will always be Pluto in our hearts. However, I am not a scientist and I don’t get to unilaterally make Pluto a planet once again. So, if we go by the new science textbooks, there are only eight planets in our solar system.
Obviously being able to see eight planets through a telescope doesn’t mean there are only eight planets (plus Pluto). For a long time, astronomers have suspected there was another planet hovering way beyond Neptune, the planet that sits furthest away from the Sun in our solar system. A statement from NASA backs up the research that suggests there is a massive “Super Earth” hanging out in the outer reaches of our solar system.
By analyzing the orbits of objects on the outside of the solar system, researchers were able to see a noticeable change in orbit at certain positions. One of the only ways to explain their measurements is the existence of a large body that has not get discovered. The gravitational pull of Planet Nine affects the objects that researchers were tracking.
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I know what you’re thinking… There could be a hundred explanations for the orbits of the observed objects, right? Researchers covered their bases on that front. According to them, other models that don’t feature a Planet Nine-like object on the outer reaches of the solar system brought up more issues that could not be explained.
Now, the biggest challenge facing researchers is finding Planet Nine to confirm their research. They will be using high-powered telescopes to try and see this so-called “Super Earth.” You may be wondering what a “Super Earth” is. These are rocky planets that are larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune. So, if accurate, it would appear that Planet Nine is large enough to avoid getting the Pluto treatment and having its planet status taken away.
It’s actually really quite amazing that there could be a Planet Nine in our own back yard. We hear research and news stories about planets in far away solar systems so to hear about a large planet hiding out in our own solar system is pretty amazing. It just goes to show that sometimes the biggest discoveries waiting to happen are closer than you think.