Is There a Mysterious Ninth-Planet Lurking Beyond Neptune?
There have long been theories surrounding the possibility of a ninth, undiscovered planet in our solar system, lurking far beyond the outer reaches of Neptune’s orbit. Just last year, NASA released a press statement illustrating the high possibility of such a planet existing. Scientists have said that this proposed ninth planet, we’ll call “Planet X”, is perhaps 10 times the mass of the Earth, and 20 times farther from the sun than Neptune, the farthest planet.
While evidence proving its existence is extremely hard to determine, scientists are fairly certain that it’s out there. “There are now five different lines of observational evidence pointing to the existence of Planet Nine,” said Konstantin Batygin, a planetary astrophysics 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.”
The evidence talked about by Batygin is referring to six known objects in the Kuiper Belt that all behave rather strangely. All of their elliptical orbits are pointing the same direction, and all of them are tilted the same way. Scientists believe that Planet X is the cause of this, due to its massive gravitational pull thanks to its size. There are other objects found in the Kuiper belt, a region beyond Neptune, that orbit the sun in a completely opposite direction of everything else in our solar system. This is a tell-tale sign that something out there is clearly influencing the way these objects are moving, leading to many to blame the mysterious Planet X.
So what does it look like?
Well, remember, we do not have concrete proof of Planet X, but from what scientists have been able to infer, they think would be categorized as a “super Earth”. This would classify Planet X as a massive rocky planet similar to Earth, something that our solar system oddly lacks. This is the only detail that scientists can realistically agree on before entering into the realm of conjecture.
Why can’t we find it?
With how far away Planet X is proposed to be, there are a number of ways it could be hidden from our view. It could be hiding in the light pollution given off by the billions of stars in the Milky Way, or it could be lost in the glare of a bright star. Nonetheless, expanding our search for this planet could be worthwhile, as objects this far away are said to be the remnants from the beginnings of our solar system. The closer we get to them, the more we develop our understanding of why our solar system is so unique compared to other solar systems found in the galaxy.