Planet Nine could turn out to be our missing “Super Earth”.
Planetary theorists say super-Earths are commonly found in other planetary systems, but missing – so far – in our solar system. The evidence seems to be mounting, so is it just a case of tracking one down?
It might be lingering bashfully on the icy outer edges of our solar system, hiding in the dark, but subtly pulling strings behind the scenes: stretching out the orbits of distant bodies, perhaps even tilting the entire solar system to one side.
If a planet is there, it’s extremely distant and will stay that way (with no chance — in case you’re wondering — of ever colliding with Earth, or bringing “days of darkness”). It is a possible “Planet Nine” — a world perhaps 10 times the mass of Earth and 20 times farther from the sun than Neptune. The signs so far are indirect, mainly its gravitational footprints, but that adds up to a compelling case nonetheless.
One of its most dedicated trackers, in fact, says it is now harder to imagine our solar system without a Planet Nine than with one.
“There are now five different lines of observational evidence pointing to the existence of Planet Nine,” said Konstantin Batygin, a planetary astrophysicist at Caltech in Pasadena, California, whose team may be closing in. “If you were to remove this explanation and imagine Planet Nine does not exist, then you generate more problems than you solve. All of a sudden, you have five different puzzles, and you must come up with five different theories to explain them.”
If Planet Nine is found, it will be a homecoming of sorts, or at least a family reunion. Over the past 20 years, surveys of planets around other stars in our galaxy have found the most common types to be “super Earths” and their somewhat larger cousins — bigger than Earth but smaller than Neptune.
Yet these common, garden-variety planets are conspicuously absent from our solar system. Weighing in at roughly 10 times Earth’s mass, the proposed Planet Nine would make a good fit.
Planet Nine could turn out to be our missing super Earth.
Read more here: http://https://phys.org/news/2017-10-super-earth-home-dinner.html
Batygin and his co-author, Caltech astronomer Mike Brown, described the first three breadcrumbs on Planet Nine’s trail in a January 2016 paper, published in the Astronomical Journal.
OBSERVATIONAL CONSTRAINTS ON THE ORBIT AND LOCATION OF PLANET NINE IN THE OUTER SOLAR SYSTEM
Clips, images credit: Caltech/JPL , ESA/NASA, & ESO
Music credit: YouTube Audio Library
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