A planet at the edge of our solar system, which has been ‘hidden,’ may have a size that is five times larger than Earth.
There is speculation among scientists that a colossal planet, undetected by astronomers, could exist in the farthest, dimly lit reaches of our solar system. By 1846, astronomers had discovered all eight major planets, in addition to several “dwarf planets,” such as Pluto. Nevertheless, experts such as Sara Webb believe that the quest for the enigmatic “ninth planet,” believed to be located far beyond Neptune, is ongoing. There is significant evidence for the planet, which may be situated up to 20 times farther from the Sun than Neptune. However, current technology may not be capable of detecting it.
According to an article in The Conversation by Sara Webb from Swinburne University in Australia, scientists believe that there is a massive, concealed planet in our solar system that is ten times the size of Earth and takes between 10,000 to 20,000 years to orbit the Sun. The reason why astronomers devote significant time searching for this ninth planet, also known as Planet Nine or Planet X, is because the current configuration of our solar system lacks coherence without it.
“It’s through our understanding of gravitational pull that we get our biggest clue for a possible Planet Nine.
“When we look at really distant objects, such as dwarf planets beyond Pluto, we find their orbits are a little unexpected.
These objects travel along extensive elliptical orbits, are clustered together, and have a different inclination compared to the rest of the solar system.
“When astronomers use a computer to model what gravitational forces are needed for these objects to move like this, they find that a planet at least 10 times the mass of Earth would have been required to cause this.”
A scientist at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has previously proposed that Planet Nine not only exists but could also be five times the size of Earth.
Professor Konstantin Batygin said: “At five Earth masses, Planet Nine is likely to be very reminiscent of a typical extrasolar super-Earth.”
Super-Earths are rocky bodies, like our planet. but much, much bigger.
On the planet, it is likely to be extremely dim, as it is so far from the Sun, so it could be up to 1,000 years before the planet is spotted.
Other researchers believe that there might be a huge disc of icy objects out there instead.
Webb is optimistic that Planet Nine could be found sooner rather than later, due to a new generation of space telescopes.
She said that there are unique challenges to spotting the huge object.
“We only have small windows of nights where the conditions must be just right. Specifically, we have to wait for a night with no moon, and on which the location we’re observing from is facing the right part of the sky.
“In the next decade, new telescopes will be built and new surveys of the sky will begin. They might just give us the opportunity to prove or disprove whether Planet Nine exists.”
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