Good evidence for 9th planet in solar system
Scientists say they finally have "good evidence" for Planet X. It may be a true ninth planet on the fringes of our solar system.
It is a gas giant. The planet, if that's what it is, is thought to be almost as big as Neptune. It would be orbiting billions of miles beyond Neptune's path. That's distant enough to take 10,000 to 20,000 years to circle the sun.
This Planet 9, as the two California Institute of Technology researchers call it, hasn't been spotted yet. They base their findings on mathematical and computer modeling. They anticipate its discovery via telescope within five years or less.
The two reported on their research Jan. 20 in the Astronomical Journal. They want people to help them look for it.
"We could have stayed quiet and spent the next five years searching the skies ourselves. But I would rather somebody find it sooner, than me find it later," astronomer Mike Brown told The Associated Press.
"I want to see it. I want to see what it looks like. I want to understand where it is. And I think this will help."
Once it's detected, Brown insists there will be no Pluto-style planetary debate. Brown ought to know. He's the so-called Pluto killer.? He helped lead the charge against Pluto's planetary status. That was in 2006. (It's now officially considered a dwarf planet.)
His colleague in this latest Planet 9 report also is from Caltech in Pasadena.? He is planetary scientist Konstantin Batygin.
"For the first time in more than 150 years, there's good evidence that the planetary census of the solar system is incomplete," Batygin said. He was referring to Neptune's discovery as Planet 8.
The two shaped their prediction on the fact that six objects in the icy Kuiper Belt, or Twilight Zone on the far reaches of the solar system, appear to be influenced by only one thing. They believe it is a real planet.
Brown actually discovered one of these six objects more than a decade ago. It is called Sedna. It's a large minor planet.? The planet is way out there on the solar system frontier.
"This is a prediction. What we have found is a gravitational signature of Planet 9 lurking in the outskirts of the solar system,' Batygin said. "We have not found the object itself."? He said that the actual discovery will be "era-defining" when it happens.
Added Brown: "We have felt a great disturbance in the force."
It will depend on where this Planet 9 is in its egg-shaped orbit. A space telescope may be needed to confirm its presence. That?s what the researchers said. Or good backyard telescopes may spot it, they noted.? That is if the planet is relatively closer to us in its swing around the sun. It's an estimated 20 billion to 100 billion miles from us.
The Caltech researchers prefer to call it Planet 9. That is instead of the historical term Planet X. The latter smacks of "aliens and the imminent destruction of the Earth," according to Brown.
The orb is believed to be 10 times more massive than Earth.? And perhaps 5,000 times more massive than dwarf Pluto.?It may well have rings and moons.
The last real planet to be discovered in our solar system was Neptune. It was found in 1846. Pluto was discovered in 1930. It was once the ninth planet.? Now it is considered a dwarf planet. It is in the Kuiper Belt. It was visited by Earth for the first time last July. NASA's New Horizons spacecraft accomplished the first-ever flyby.