Science

Mysterious Planet Nine: Does The Hypothetical World Exist?

Mysterious Planet Nine
Image Credit: ESO/Tom Ruen/nagualdesign

Scientists continue to gather more evidence about the existence of the mysterious Planet Nine, which is believed to be roughly 10 times more massive than Earth. However, the world seems to be hiding, which is why it’s so challenging for scientists to officially discover it.

In October 2017, NASA released a statement which explains that Planet Nine is likely 20 times further from the sun than Neptune, saying, “It is now harder to imagine our solar system without a Planet Nine than with one.”

However, this extremely far distance from the sun could be exactly what makes exploration so difficult. The distance is equivalent of 600 astronomical units (1 AU is the distance between the Earth and the sun, or approximately 93 million miles). The planet may be 160,000 times dimmer than Neptune.

Kevin Luhman, an astronomer at Pennsylvania State University, said as reported by The Washington Post that 1,000 AU is a “brick wall, basically,” which makes any planet that could exist beyond that impossible to see using the technology that is currently being used. Nevertheless, scientists still believe there is a possibility of that planet existing and being “10 times the mass of Earth.”

“Every time we take a picture, there is this possibility that Planet Nine exists in the shot,” Surhud More, associate professor at the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe at the University of Tokyo, told the Advocator.

However, Slashgear reports that it could take incredibly long to finally find the mysterious Planet Nine — even up to 1,000 years.

“There are now five different lines of observational evidence pointing to the existence of Planet Nine,” Konstantin Batygin, a planetary astrophysicist at CalTech in Pasadena, California, said in NASA’s 2017 statement. “If you were to remove this explanation and imagine Planet Nine does not exist, then you generate more problems than you solve. All of a sudden, you have five different puzzles, and you must come up with five different theories to explain them.”

They are:

There are six known objects in the Kupier Belt, and those objects have elliptical orbits that are pointed in the same direction. The orbits of those objects are tilted 30 degrees “downward.”

There are computer simulations which show that there are more objects “tilted with respect to the solar plane.”

As the statement describes, two more “breadcrumbs” came after a paper published in 2016. A team led by Batygin’s graduate student Elizabeth Bailey found out that Planet Nine could have actually tilted the planets which belong to our solar system in the last 4.5 billion years. This could answer an ongoing mystery: “Why is the plane in which the planets orbit tilted about 6 degrees compared to the sun’s equator?”

“Over long periods of time, Planet Nine will make the entire solar-system plane precess or wobble, just like a top on a table,” Batygin said in a statement.

The last theory suggests that Planet Nine’s presence is seen by the objects in Kuiper Belt orbiting in the opposite direction from all other bodies from the solar system. If Planet Nine has a large orbital influence, then that would explain those bodies from the Kupier Belt which “pollute” its inner section.

The news about the mysterious Planet Nine initially surfaced in 2014, when scientists discovered a planetoid that appears to orbit around our sun.