We know more about Solar system now than ever before; however, a mystery reignswhich stirs up so much intrigue that it could fit perfectly into the plot of a sci-fi movie.
In the outer solar system, far beyond the orbit of Neptune and Pluto, a ninth planet may be waiting to be discovered. East ‘ghost planet’nicknamed Planet 9 or Planet Xhas never been observed directly, but particular events in space beyond Neptune temptingly suggest its existence.
The mystery of planet 9
The speculation as to whether a large planet undiscovered hides in the outer solar system existed since the discovery of Neptune in 1846. At that time, the American astronomer Percival Lowell undertook an exhaustive search for this mysterious planetawhich subsequently led to discovery of pluto in its place.
Although no artifacts were found, questions remained in the years that followed, and further speculation arose after the discovery of Sedna, in 2004. Sedna, along with a group of other small objects beyond Neptune’s orbit, share a particular model of orbitsthat suggests the gravitational influence of a much larger object.
Astronomers Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin presented strong evidence of this in a study 2016who suggested that the so-called planet 9 can have one mass about 10 times that of the Earth and be similar in size to Neptune and Uranus.
Additionally, they proposed that Planet 9 could orbits the Sun at a distance 20 times that of Neptunewhich means that the planet would take a few 18,500 earth years to complete an orbit.
However, This figure has been corrected. in a more recent study, from 2021, adjusting it to 7,400 yearsfrom which we conclude that Planet 9 may be closer, brighter and easier to find than we thought.
“I think it could be found in the next two years“, said Mike Brown, after the publication of the study in the scientific journal Astronomical Diary, before adding: “I have made this statement every year for the past five years. I’m super optimistic.”
Potential breakthrough discovery?
If Planet 9 were discovered, it would be the first major planet discovered in the solar system in more than 175 years. But if it exists, why don’t we have direct proof of it yet? After all, how hard can it be to find something 10 times the size of Earth floating around our Sun?
Well, even given the vast amount of technology and research today, tracking down an object in the dark regions of space isn’t something astronomers do very often. Since Planet 9’s orbit is so large, unlikely to reflect much sunlightwhich makes it very difficult to observe even for a telescope pointed in the right direction.
But at the same time some astronomers are convinced of the existence of Planet 9, others remain skepticalbelieving the unusual orbit patterns of Neptune objects to be either coincidence or simply misleading data points.
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