It’s long been considered a possibility, but now two astronomers believe they have found a giant ninth planet in our solar system.
Astronomer Mike Brown and Konstatin Batygin published their findings that suggest a rogue giant planet is orbiting our sun well beyond the orbit of Neptune.
The gas giant is believed to be as large as Neptune with an orbit that could take 10,000 to 20,000 years. The researchers have dubbed this world “Planet 9.”
“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 The Associated Press.
“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.”
(Brown’s discovery of Eris, an icy world in the Kuiper Belt beyond Pluto, led to the reclassification of Pluto as a dwarf planet. He has been dubbed the “Pluto Killer.”)
“All those people who are mad that Pluto is no longer a planet can be thrilled to know that there is a real planet out there still to be found,” Brown said. “Now we can go and find this planet and make the solar system have nine planets once again.”
Planet 9 hasn’t actually been seen yet. However, the astronomers used mathematical calculations and modelling to account for the orbits of six other known objects beyond Neptune.
“This is a prediction. What we have found is a gravitational signature of Planet 9 lurking in the outskirts of the solar system,” Batygin said. “We have not found the object itself,” he stressed, adding that the actual discovery when it happens will be “era-defining.”
“We have felt a great disturbance in the force,” Brown said.
Reactions were swift in the scientific community, with some doubt cast on the findings.
It’s long been debated whether another giant planet orbits our sun, with the theory dating back more than 100 years.
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