Planet Nine’s days of lurking unseen in the dark depths of the outer solar system may be numbered.
According to science.com, the hypothetical giant planet, which is thought to be about 10 times the size of Earth, will be discovered in about 16 months.
Planet Nine, believed to sit at the edge of our solar system, is so huge that researchers at the University of Technology California claim it causes the solar system to “wobble”.
Astronomers Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin first discovered the planet’s existence through mathematical modelling and computer simulations.
They presented their evidence in January but it’s believed to have escaped the gaze of telescopes because it is so far away from the Sun.
“I’m pretty sure, I think, that by the end of next winter there’ll be enough people looking for it that … somebody’s actually going to track this down,” Brown said at a joint meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) and the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) in Pasadena.
According to science.com, there are about 10 groups looking for the planet.
|“At the next one of these [DPS-EPSC meetings], we’ll be talking about finding Planet Nine instead of just looking for it,” added Brown, who’s based at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.|
The existence of Planet Nine was seriously proposed for the first time in 2014, by astronomers Scott Sheppard and Chadwick Trujillo, of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., and the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii, respectively.
The evidence for Planet Nine’s existence has continued to grow over the past nine months, as several different research teams have determined that the orbits of other small, distant objects appear to have been sculpted as well.
Brown’s team announced that Planet Nine appears to have tilted the orbits of all eight “official” planets by six degrees relative to the sun.
“This is well within reach of the giant telescopes,” he said. “The Subaru telescope on Mauna Kea, [Hawaii] is the prime instrument for doing the search. But there are a lot of other people who have clever ideas on how to find it, too, that are trying with their own telescopes.”
It’s hard to know which team will find Planet Nine, but Brown stresses that getting credit for the historic discovery should be a secondary concern for astronomers.
“There are a lot of people looking, and we are trying as hard as we can to tell people where to look,” he said. “We want it to be found.”