Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Mysterious ‘Planet 9’ might not be a planet at all

Elijah Vega | 07 June, 2018, 03:27

CU Boulder Assistant Professor Ann-Marie Madigan said, "There are so many of these bodies out there".

Some scientists have theorized that a planet about 10 times the size of Earth in the outer solar system is responsible for perturbing the TNOs' orbits. "I think we can solve a lot of these problems by just taking into account that question". Sedna circles round the Sun at a distance of a whopping eight billion miles, making it one of the most distant objects in the Solar System, other than faraway comets.

Their observations indicate that Sedna moves slower, and being more massive, as opposed to smaller objects such as asteroids.

Planet Nine was first hypothesised in 2014, when researchers noticed that some of the space rocks out past Neptune, known as trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs), have unusually looping orbits, "detached" from the strong gravitational influence of the larger gas giants in the Solar System. For example, there's still "clustering in pomega", which Madigan described as the odd fact that the orbits of the detached objects all tilt the same way. As space debris interacts in the outer solar system, the orbits of these objects tighten and widen in a repeating cycle.

Dwarf planets like Sedna, reports Cnet, have unusual orbits around the Sun and one of the reasons for this could be a yet-to-be-seen ninth planet that is large enough, or with enough mass to exert gravitational tugs on them. Sedna circles the sun at a distance of almost 8 billion miles and doesn't even come near solar system's giant planets. Sedna itself was only discovered in 2003, while the second-largest (by volume) and most massive dwarf planet, Eris, was found in 2005.

According to the researchers' simulations, the TNOs move like hands on a clock, with the most massive objects moving slowly, like the hour hand, and the smaller ones ticking along quickly, like the minute hand.

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"You see a pileup of the orbits of smaller objects to one side of the sun". They outlined their research at the 232nd meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Denver, Colorado.

Planet Nine has not been confirmed, however, and all attempts to find it have been fruitless. "These orbits crash into the bigger body, and what happens is those interactions will change its orbit from an oval shape to a more circular shape".

This theory matches a 2012 finding showing the larger a detached TNO becomes, the more distant its orbit gets from the Sun.

Asteroids may also have slammed into bigger objects, altering their orbits - and may have "dislodged" comets which then headed towards Earth.

"The handful we've seen is not enough", Fleisig said. Now, reports Jay Bennett at Popular Mechanics, a new analysis suggests the mysterious Planet 9 may not exist at all-and the weird orbits can instead be explained by swarms of asteroids.

According to the team, the dinosaur-killing asteroid that hammered our planet 65 million years ago, wiping out almost 75 percent of life on Earth, could have been sent on its collision path by the periodic comet showers that turned up in Fleisig's computer model.

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