Meet Planet Nine, bros. The ninth planet in the solar system. It sounds chill as fuck. Planet Nine is ten times the size of Earth, a mini-former gas giant that’s now probably frozen, and which takes 10,000 to 20,000 years to orbit the Sun.
In fact, it’s already moved to the top of our chill planet rankings (which, reminder, before adding Planet Nine are: 1. Jupiter, 2. Saturn, 3. Mars, 4. Neptune, 5. Uranus, 6. Venus, 7. Earth (Earth ain’t all that chill), 8. Mercury).
Although Planet Nine has yet to be physically observed, astronomers at the California Institute of Technology published a paper declaring it essentially a reality. They used known orbits of Kuiper Belt objects and, in analyzing them, determined something was influencing their trips around the sun. From The Washington Post:
Their paper, published in the Astronomical Journal, describes the planet as about five to 10 times as massive as the Earth. But the authors, astronomers Michael Brown and Konstantin Batygin, have not observed the planet directly.
Instead, they have inferred its existence from the motion of recently discovered dwarf planets and other small objects in the outer solar system. Those smaller bodies have orbits that appear to be influenced by the gravity of a hidden planet – a “massive perturber.” The astronomers suggest it might have been flung into deep space long ago by the gravitational force of Jupiter or Saturn.
Deep Space Planet Bros! Ironically, the paper was written by one of the people influential in getting Pluto demoted to a Kuiper Belt Object years ago.
Telescopes all over the planet are searching for it, but finding Planet Nine could prove to be an impossibility. It’s twenty times farther away than Neptune, so no matter how big it is, it won’t reflect a lot of light from the Sun.
Among astronomers, there’s often been speculation about a ninth planet.
In 2014, Scott Sheppard of the Washington-based Carnegie Institution of Science and Chad Trujillo of the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii published a paper in the journal Nature that discussed the potential existence of a giant planet affecting the orbits of those dwarf worlds. Sheppard and Trujillo noted a similarity in the motion of those bodies when they are closest to the sun.
Ironically, Brown wanted to disprove this argument when he set out investigating planet nine.
“We thought their idea was crazy,” Brown said, explaining that extra planets are always the “go-to suggestion” when astronomers find orbital behavior they can’t explain. But he and Batygin struggled to debunk that hypothetical ninth planet. They used mathematical equations and then computer models, ultimately concluding that the best explanation for the smaller objects’ clustering was the gravitational effects of something far bigger.
Already astronomers around the globe are coalescing around Brown’s theory.
From the Côte d’Azur Observatory in Nice, France, planetary scientist Alessandro Morbidelli agreed that the evidence was stronger this time. “I immediately felt that this paper, for the first time, was providing convincing evidence for a new planet in the solar system,” said Morbidelli, an expert in these kinds of orbital movements who was not involved in either study. “I don’t see any alternative explanation to that offered by Batygin and Brown.”
Planet fuckin Nine Bros. Who is against this? I sure ain’t.
[H/T USA Today]