Scientists say—once again—that a previously undiscovered world may lurk in the outermost reaches of our solar system.
For several years, astronomers have debated whether or not such a planet exists beyond the orbit of Pluto.
Now, a new study may have finally found evidence the elusive world—dubbed as planet Nine is not just a myth.
Using data from the Dark Energy Survey— a visible and near-infrared survey that aims to probe the dynamics of the expansion of the Universe and the growth of large-scale structure—experts spotted a never-before-seen object.
And while the Dark Energy Survey is an unlikely tool for finding objects inside out solar system since nearly all of them orbit within the plane, it did come in handy for spotting the newly found object: it has an orbit tilted by 45 degrees with respect to the planet of the solar system, and its something scientists in the new study didn’t expect to see.
Nevertheless, it was something predicted by Batygin and Brown, Caltech researchers who proposed in 2016 the planet was real.
“But I would say the presence of an object like this in our solar system bolsters the case for Planet Nine,” added Gerdes.
The new study describes how astronomers have come across a ‘distant’ rocky object—perhaps as large as a dwarf planet—which they argue was pushed into an extraordinary orbit by the gravitational pull of a massive, undiscovered world.
They argue that this discovery offers unprecedented evidence that planet nine must be out there somewhere.
Planet Nine—A world astronomers hunt for desperately
The elusive alien world was first proposed to exist by astronomers at Caltech in 2016, as they spotted how a group of icy objects at the edge of our solar system have strange, tilted orbits.
“It has a real magnetism to it,” said Gregory Laughlin, an astronomer at Yale University.
“I mean, finding a 10-Earth-mass planet in our solar system would be a discovery of unrivaled scientific magnitude.”
Caltech astronomers suggested how the orbits of so-called trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) were altered by the gravitational pull of a planet ten times the mass of earth, located beyond Pluto.
Researchers discovered back then how the TNOs had elliptical orbits all pointing in the same direction. They also found the objects were tilted around 30 degrees ‘downward’ compared to the planet in which the planets of our solar system orbit the sun.
And while there has been ample evidence that suggests such a planet isn’t just a myth, we have failed to spot the elusive world in the sky.
NASA says its probably real
In 2017, NASA joined the discussion about the elusive planet. The Space Agency highlighted five different lines of evidence that suggest such a planet is real.
The US Space Agency also said that the ‘inexistence’ of planet Nine generates more problems than it solves.
Dr. Konstantin Batygin from Caltech said:
“There are now five different lines of observational evidence pointing to the existence of Planet Nine. 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.
Featured Image Credit: Olena Shmahalo/Quanta Magazine
Ivan is editor-in-chief at ancient-code.com, he also writes for Universe Explorers.
You may have seen him appear on the Discovery and History Channel.