A new study that suggests there is a massive additional planet roaming our solar system has garnered a lot of attention, including NASA’s.
The rumoured planet — believed to be more massive than Neptune, with an orbit between 10,000 to 20,000 years — has yet to be observed: it’s only been theorized to explain the movement of other bodies at the outer reaches of our solar system.
But that doesn’t mean we can break out the bubbly yet, warns Caltech astronomer Konstatin Batygin.
“This is a prediction,” he says. “What we have found is a gravitational signature of Planet 9 lurking in the outskirts of the solar system. We have not found the object itself,” he stressed, adding that the actual discovery when it happens will be “era-defining.”
Jim Green, director of planetary science at NASA addressed the new findings.
“The January 20 paper in the Astronomical Journal is fueling our interest in planetary exploration,” Green said. “Stimulating a healthy debate that’s part of the scientific process.”
“It is not, however, the detection of a new planet. It’s too early to say with certainty that there’s a so-called ‘Planet X’ out there.”
The new study by Batygin and fellow Caltech astronomer Mike Brown was published on Monday in the Astronomical Journal.