The solar system may have a new planet: Caltech’s ‘Pluto killer’ astronomer claims Neptune-sized planet dubbed ‘Planet X’ DOES exist
- Gas giant is thought to be almost as big as Neptune
- Orbits billions of miles beyond Neptune’s path
- Planet is distant enough to take 10,000 to 20,000 years to circle the sun
- Team has booked time on Hawaii telescope that could confirm find
Scientists say they finally have ‘solid evidence’ for Planet X, a true ninth planet on the fringes of our solar system.
The gas giant is thought to be almost as big as Neptune and orbiting billions of miles beyond Neptune’s path – distant enough to take 10,000 to 20,000 years to circle the sun.
This Planet 9, as the two Caltech researchers call it, hasn’t been spotted yet.
They base their findings on mathematical and computer modeling, and anticipate its discovery via telescope within five years.
The two reported on their research Wednesday in the Astronomical Journal because they want people to help them look for it.
‘We could have stayed quiet and quietly spent the next five years searching the skies ourselves and hoping to find it.
‘But I would rather somebody find it sooner, than me find it later,’ astronomer Mike Brown told AP.
‘I want to see it. I want to see what it looks like. I want to understand where it is, and I think this will help.’
Researchers inferred Planet X’s presence from the peculiar clustering of six previously known objects that orbit beyond Neptune.
They say there’s only a 0.007% chance, or about one in 15,000, that the clustering could be a coincidence.
Instead, they say, a planet with the mass of 10 Earths has shepherded the six objects into their strange elliptical orbits, tilted out of the plane of the solar system.
During the solar system’s infancy 4.5 billion years ago, they say, the giant planet was knocked out of the planet-forming region near the sun.
Slowed down by gas, the planet settled into a distant elliptical orbit, where it still lurks today.
Once it’s detected, the researchers insist there will be no Pluto-style planetary debate.
They ought to know; one of them, Mike Brown, is the so-called Pluto killer.
‘My daughter, Lilah, has suggested that we call it Pluto.
‘That way Pluto can be a planet again,’ he said of the discovery.
‘We have found evidence that there’s a giant planet in the outer solar system,’ Brown told Popsci.
‘By ‘giant’ we mean the size of Neptune, and when we say ‘outer solar system’ we mean 10 to 20 times farther away than Pluto.’
Brown and Konstantin Batygin, a theoretical astrophysicist at Caltech who specializes in solar system dynamics, think Planet X formed in the early stages of the solar system, some 4 billion years ago, when the large planets (including Planet X) were still
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