Part 10 – Planet X/Planet 9 (X as in Unknown, not the Roman Numeral for 10)
The hypothetical Planet X, which is actually Planet 9, but would be planet 10 if Pluto had not been robbed of its status.
In the beginning, I was going to end this series with our furthermost planet Neptune, but then, being a child of the 60’s we had 9 planets, so of course I included Pluto (now relegated to a dwarf planet). I then got to thinking about what is sometimes called Planet X, which will, if discovered, become our 9th official planet, so I thought it best to complete this series, even if Planet X is not yet discovered. My understanding is that there are 5 teams who are seriously looking for it.
According to a statement from NASA, Planet Nine is out there, and astronomers are determined to find it,. In fact, mounting evidence suggests it’s hard to imagine our solar system without the unseen world.
“It might be lingering bashfully on the icy outer edges of our solar system, hiding in the dark, but subtly pulling strings behind the scenes: stretching out the orbits of distant bodies, perhaps even tilting the entire solar system to one side. If a planet is there, it’s extremely distant and will stay that way (with no chance of ever colliding with Earth, or bringing “days of darkness”). It is a possible “Planet Nine” — a world perhaps 10 times the mass of Earth and 20 times farther from the sun than Neptune. The signs so far are indirect, mainly its gravitational footprints, but that adds up to a compelling case nonetheless.”
In January 2016, astronomers Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena found further evidence for such a planet in the orbits of several additional bodies in the outer solar system. Batygin and Brown dubbed the hypothetical world Planet Nine, and calculated that it likely possesses a highly elliptical orbit that takes it as much as 1,000 astronomical units (AU) from the sun
I would now like to mention that it was Mike Brown who basically killed off Pluto as a planet. Some details here: How I killed Pluto I shall not be purchasing this book, but I accept that rules are rules, but they should have made Pluto an exception. (Insert well known GP word here).
The most common type of planets discovered around other stars in our galaxy has been what astronomers call “super Earths” — rocky worlds that are larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune. However, no such planet has yet been discovered in our solar system, meaning that Planet Nine could be our missing “super Earth,” the researchers said.
“No other model can explain the weirdness of these high-inclination orbits,” Konstantin Batygin said. “It turns out that Planet Nine provides a natural avenue for their generation. These things have been twisted out of the solar system plane with help from Planet Nine and then scattered inward by Neptune.”
Indeed, astronomers have yet to confirm the planet’s existence (though this milestone could come by 2017). Other studies have deemed the rogue-planet ((also termed an interstellar planet, nomad planet, free-floating planet, orphan planet, wandering planet, starless planet, or sunless planet) explanation unlikely, suggesting instead that Planet Nine is a native of the solar system, or that the sun ripped the world away from another star during a long-ago close stellar encounter. So we really need to find it, which will help identify its origins.
So, at the moment everything said about Planet Nine, is speculation. I do have high hopes it will be discovered, and soon, and by soon, I mean this year, 2018.
I do hope you have enjoyed this series of the planets in our solar system, it was most enjoyable researching it. Each Planet took around 5 hours to write, apart from Earth, which took twice as long, as it is very difficult to find the odd *fact* that may not be well known.
I have made a note to research again in 2 years time, as many of the facts stated today, will not be facts by then. I will of course keep a special eye out for Uranus.
© Phil the test manager 2018