Ever since Pluto’s planet status was revoked in 2006, many people have been feeling lost with only eight planets, instead of the nine they had always learnt about. Due to recent discoveries however, the common nostalgia and longing for a ninth planet might just be about to be cured. Ladies and Gentleman, behold Planet X, also known as Planet 9.
This video from SciShow Space explains Planet 9 via. Youtube
CalTech researchers predict that Planet 9 is about the size of Neptune, but orbits about 10 times farther away. The mysterious planet could possibly even have rings and moons. The reason it’s all “could” and “might”? Planet X hasn’t actually been seen yet.
The CalTech researchers who found the planet: Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown, didn’t use a telescope to find the planet. Instead, they were able to predict the planet’s location using math. In a report they published in the Astronomical Journal, they noted that they had noticed Kuiper Belt Objects or KBOs “exhibit[ing] unexplained clustering in orbital elements”. Using computer simulations the pair was able to predict the location of the theoretical planet.
Why haven’t we seen this planet you ask? Scientists predict that it could take over 10 000 years for Planet X to orbit the sun. For reference, 10 000 years ago, there were still a few mammoths roaming the Earth. Mike Brown told the Associated Press nan interview that they “could have stayed quiet ” about their predictions and searched the skies for it themselves, “but [he] would rather somebody else find it sooner, than [them] find it later.
If Planet X proves to be real, it will be the third planet in our solar system discovered since prehistoric times, the other two being Uranus in the 1780s, and Neptune in the 1840s. They’re hoping to be able to find it within the next five years. Depending on where it is in its orbit, it might have to be spotted by a space telescope, or if its closer, one right here on earth.
Scott Sheppard from the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington had originally predicted the existence of a massive planet in the Kuiper Belt two years ago. According to him there is a 50 to 75 percent chance that the planet proves to be will.
If the planet does turn out to be real, the fact that Mike Brown discovered it will be just a tad ironic. He was the scientist who started the debate that led to Pluto’s planetary status’s being revoked, and has even taken the name @plutokiller on twitter.
OK, OK, I am now willing to admit: I DO believe that the solar system has nine planets.
— Mike Brown (@plutokiller) January 20, 2016
For the next five years fingers will be crossed as astronomers from around the world race for what will be the discovery of the century. I wish them all good luck, and may the force be with you.