American scientists have found a new planet in the solar system called ‘Planet Nine’, however the discovery has been revealed before they actually laid eyes on it.
Despite that, the claims are being taken seriously by astronomers because the team responsible for the find is led by one of the world’s top astronomers.
“The guy who did this is the best in the business,” Sydney University Institute of Astronomy Professor Peter Tuthill told The New Daily.
“He is not prone to overstating his conclusions but even when he made the announcement said ‘I have these observations I can’t explain and the only thing that could is if I think there is a planet out there’.”
Computer simulations of the orbits of distant objects in space past Neptune suggest Planet Nine is real, scientists from the California Institute of Technology argued.
“Although we were initially quite sceptical that this planet could exist, as we continued to investigate its orbit and what it would mean for the outer solar system, we become increasingly convinced that it is out there,” said Konstantin Batygin, a professor who worked on the discovery.
Pluto and Ceres, both considered dwarf planets, were originally thought to be planets at the time they were discovered – but were both later demoted.
That’s not expected to be the case with Planet Nine.
Its mass – which is at least 5000 times that of Pluto – and its ability to gravitationally dominate its orbit, means some scientists believe there should not be any debate about whether it is a planet.
Click on the interactive image above to see how far Planet Nine is from the rest of the solar system
“This would be a real ninth planet,” the Planet Nine discoverer Professor Mike Brown told the ABC.
Professor Brown – who published his findings in the Astronomical Journal – said his team had been working to make the discovery for two years.
“We noticed that the very most distant objects in our solar system … that go out beyond Pluto they all go off in one direction, which is a very strange thing.”
The planet would take between 10,000 and 20,000 years to orbit the Sun and the next step is for monitor telescopes to try and spot the planet in the sky.
Only Uranus and Neptune have been discovered in our solar system since ancient times.
“This would be a third,” Professor Brown said.
“It’s a pretty substantial chunk of our solar system that’s still out there to be found, which is pretty exciting.”
How was Planet Nine found?
According to Professor Tuthill, the discovery came about by trying to spot anomalies in the way other known space objects were having orbits tampered with.
“It was discovered essentially by tracking the orbit of other objects that are out in the dark in the outer reaches of the solar system,” Professor Tuthill told The New Daily.
“The orbit of those objects was being influenced by something [thought to be the planet].
“This is how other planets have been found. You look for perturbations in orbits.”
He explained that there was obviously enough evidence available to Professor Brown and his team for them to judge that it was a new planet causing all the irregularities they found.
He said the reason why such a significant planet took this long to discover was down to technology.
“You need big telescopes to monitor them,” Professor Tuthill said. “You also need a lot of computers. Once you get the evidence you need to join the dots.
“You need to rule out that it wasn’t the normal solar system causing perturbing and to do those calculations requires heavy duty computing power.
“Both of those things [to find Planet Nine] have only come around recently.”
Where is it?
Well, finding it in the sky isn’t possible yet. In fact, it has never been seen before.
Professor Tuthill said first, the astronomy community needed to challenge the findings to make sure they were definitively proven and also for the Earth’s many monitoring telescopes to spot Planet Nine in the sky.
However, it is reported in the findings that Planet Nine is more than 6000 million km from the sun, whereas Pluto is 5913 million km from the Sun. It’s distance from the sun makes it hard to detect, as so little light is being reflected from its surface.
Earth is 149.6 million km from the sun and smaller than the estimates of Planet Nine’s size.
“They’ve discovered evidence of a planet. They haven’t discovered a planet,” Professor Tuthill warned.
“When you discover a planet you can go stick a flag in it. It is evidence that it is likely that something is out there that is shoving its weight around.”
Watch the video below to watch the researches talk about finding Planet Nine:
– with ABC