Artist's concept of a hypothetical planet orbiting far from the Sun. Credit: Caltech/R. Ache (IPAC)


Caltech researcher have uncovered mathematical evidence saying there may be a "Planet X" deep in the solar system. This hypothetical Neptune-sized world orbits our sun in a extremely elongated orbit far past Pluto. The object, i beg your pardon the researchers have actually nicknamed "Planet Nine," can have a mass around 10 times the of Earth and orbit about 20 times farther from the sun on median than Neptune. It might take in between 10,000 and 20,000 planet years to make one complete orbit roughly the Sun.

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The announcement does not median there is a brand-new planet in our solar system. The visibility of this distant world is only theoretical in ~ this point and no straight observation the the object nicknamed "Planet 9" have been made. The mathematical forecast of a planet can explain the distinct orbits that some smaller sized objects in the Kuiper Belt, a distant region of icy debris the extends far past the orbit of Neptune. Astronomers are now looking for the suspect planet.

In Depth

In January 2015, Caltech astronomers Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown announced brand-new research the provides evidence of a gigantic planet tracing an unusual, elongated orbit in the outer solar system. The forecast is based upon detailed mathematical modeling and also computer simulations, not straight observation.

This big object could explain the unique orbits of in ~ least 5 smaller objects found in the far-off Kuiper Belt.

"The possibility of a brand-new planet is certainly an amazing one for me together a planetary scientist and also for every one of us," said Jim Green, director of buzzpatterson.com's Planetary scientific research Division. "This is not, however, the detection or discovery of a new planet. It's too early to say with certainty there's a so-called world X. What we're see is very early prediction based upon modeling from limited observations. It's the begin of a procedure that could lead to an amazing result."

The Caltech scientists think Planet X might have has a mass around 10 times that of Earth and be similar in size to Uranus or Neptune. The guess orbit is around 20 time farther indigenous our sunlight on mean than Neptune (which orbits the sun at an mean distance that 2.8 billion miles). It would take this new planet in between 10,000 and 20,000 year to make simply one complete orbit around the sun (where Neptune completes an orbit about every 165 years).

When was it Discovered?

Planet X has actually not however been discovered, and there is conflict in the clinical community about whether it exists. The forecast in the Jan. 20 problem of the huge Journal is based upon mathematical modeling.

What is its Name?

Batygin and Brown nicknamed your predicted thing "Planet Nine," but the yes, really naming rights of an object go come the human being who in reality discovers it. The name used throughout previous hunts because that the long suspected giant, undiscovered object beyond Neptune is "Planet X."

If the predicted people is found, the name have to be authorized by the International expensive Union. Planets space traditionally named for superordinary Roman gods.

Why carry out They Think It's There?

Astronomers studying the Kuiper Belt have actually noticed several of the dwarf planets and other small, icy objects often tend to monitor orbits that swarm together. By assessing these orbits, the Caltech team predicted the opportunity that a large, formerly undiscovered planet may be hiding far past Pluto.

They estimate the gravity of this potential planet can explain the unusual orbits the those Kuiper objects.

What’s Next?

Astronomers, consisting of Batygin and also Brown, will start using the world's most powerful telescopes to search for the thing in its guess orbit. Any type of object that much away native the sunlight will be an extremely faint and hard to detect, but astronomers calculate that it have to be possible to see it making use of existing telescopes.

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"I would certainly love to discover it," claims Brown. "But I'd likewise be perfectly happy if someone else found it. That is why we're posting this paper. Us hope that other civilization are walk to obtain inspired and start searching."

"Anytime we have an interesting idea prefer this, we constantly apply Carl Sagan's rule for an essential thinking, which include independent check of the facts, feather for alternating explanations, and encouraging clinical debate," said Green. "If world X is the end there, we'll discover it together. Or we'll identify an alternating explanation because that the data that we've got so far.

"Now let's walk explore."


Fesenmaier, Kimm, "Caltech Researchers find Evidence the a Real ninth Planet," push release, critical modified January 20, 2015

Konstantin Batygin and also Michael E. Brown, "Evidence for a distant Giant earth in the Solar System," The expensive Journal

Green, James, "A new Planet in our Solar System? buzzpatterson.com takes a Look," video clip statement, last modified January 20, 2015