How many times haven’t we heard about Planet Nine, Planet X, the Rogue Planet and so on? So far, none of them have been proven to exist.
This time, scientists think that there could be a huge ‘planet’ never spotted before by astronomers. This giant body might be lurking our solar system’s edge. However, the latest study says our notion of ‘Planet Nine’ is wrong. What the authors suggest is that there is a mysterious object ten times bigger than our Earth, and it’s not a planet, but a spinning disc of icy bodies.
Looking far beyond Neptune, we see the Kuiper Belt which is an area filled with many small bodies that are leftovers from the formation of our solar system. These bodies are called trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs). Some of these rocks have an odd orbit, which made scientists believe that they orbit an unseen planet.
However, a team of scientists at Cambridge used computer modelling to try and find out more about this odd orbit and what affects it. Results suggest that a huge disc of icy bodies could also be a possibility, explains the author of the study, Antranik Sefilian (Ph.D. student at Cambridge):
The Planet Nine hypothesis is a fascinating one, but if the hypothesized ninth planet exists, it has so far avoided detection.
We wanted to see whether there could be another, less dramatic and perhaps more natural, cause for the unusual orbits we see in some TNOs.
We thought, rather than allowing for a ninth planet, and then worry about its formation and unusual orbit, why not simply account for the gravity of small objects constituting a disk beyond the orbit of Neptune and see what it does for us?
Antranik Sefilian concluded that when they removed Planet Nine from their model and introduced the disc of icy objects equal to the mass of 10 Earths, the odd orbits of TNOs were similarly affected as if they followed a single large planet like the theorized Planet Nine.
In conclusion, the study doesn’t prove that Planet Nine doesn’t exist, but it offers an alternative for the current known facts and observations.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.