Caltech Researchers Find ‘Strongest Evidence Yet’ of an Unknown Planet in Our Solar System

  • While 'Planet 9' remains undiscovered, a new paper suggests it’s there.

  • The world’s largest digital camera could validate or rule out the new findings.

Unkown Planet
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The idea of a ninth planet in our solar system has existed since the discovery of Neptune. In 2016, astronomers Michael Brown and Konstantin Batygin used mathematics to suggest the existence of this planet. Recently, they presented “the strongest statistical evidence yet that Planet 9 is really out there.” However, we're going to need the world’s largest digital camera to find it.

What is "Planet 9"? Astronomers have been trying to find Planet 9 for some time to explain gravitational perturbations in some trans-Neptunian objects.

While other theories have been proposed, such as a dark matter ring or an unformed black hole, Planet 9 is the most straightforward explanation. However, despite efforts to locate the planet, it remains elusive.

The piece that was missing. A recent statistical study of the trans-Neptunian objects’ low-inclination orbits, led by Caltech researcher Konstantin Batygin, provides strong evidence for the existence of Planet 9.

The research team conducted comprehensive numerical simulations and found that the unusual orbits of these objects are best explained by a model that includes Planet 9. In contrast, the computer rejected the models that didn’t include Planet 9 with a high level of statistical confidence.

Waiting for Vera Rubin. These models are solid and account for the gravitational interactions of all giant planets. They also include the galactic tide, which is the tidal force exerted by the gravitational field of a galaxy. However, the search for Planet 9 will continue until scientists can find it with a telescope.

Fortunately, the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Cerro Pachón, Chile, has recently unveiled the world’s largest digital camera, which could potentially confirm or refute the existence of the mysterious ninth planet in the future. As far as where they should look, scientists already know that Planet 9 should be in the northern Galactic plane, which remains unexplored.

While there’s currently no definitive proof of the ninth planet's existence, the latest research provides compelling mathematical evidence of its presence. It also helps us better understand the evolution of the outer solar system and how trans-Neptunian objects have ended up there.

Image | NASA

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