The existence of the elusive Planet X continues to fascinate astronomers from all over the world.
A new paper argues that the mysterious planet could be tracked down by analyzing the cosmic radiation emitted by the Big Bang, known as the Cosmic Microwave Background (or CMB) radiation.
It is thought that Planet X is very cold. This means that its thermal emission may fit into the submillimeter range. In order to find the planet the researchers should be able to use surveys that analyze the millimeter wavelengths of CMB.
In order to find the planet researchers could compare several high-resolution surveys of a section of the sky. This would allow them to spot any anomalies that would likely surface. The key to spotting Planet X is the parallax of the planet. The parallax is the apparent movement compared to far-away objects that occur when the Earthmovers around the Sun. In this case the parallax is estimated to reach several arc-minutes per year.
Most astronomers agree that a Planet X located within our solar system would have the mass of 10 Earths. The origins of such a planet are hard to explain but several theories are being discussed.
Some observatories, like the PanSTARRS observatory located in Hawaii, are actively searching for the sunlight that the planet should reflect.
The main author of the paper noted during an interview that CMB scans are the best method for detecting the planet. The main issue is brought by a technical limitation. If you are not able to trace the movement of the planet others may argue that what you found could be just another distant object, for example a galaxy. In order to avoid this problem the researchers will have to use optical survey data in order to identify and measure the motion of the planet.
CMB scans will become possible in the following years when better telescopes will become operational. The discovery of a new planet would be a great achievement.
Brad is a former Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, is an award-winning travel, culture, and parenting writer. His writing has appeared in many of the Canada’s most respected and credible publications, including the Toronto Star, CBC News and on the cover of Smithsonian Magazine. A meticulous researcher who’s not afraid to be controversial, he is nationally known as a journalist who opens people’s eyes to the realities behind accepted practices in the care of children. Brad is a contributing journalist to Advocator.ca