Researchers at the California Institute of Technology – Caltech -are reporting that they have found evidence of a giant planet traveling in an odd and drawn out orbit in the far reaches of the solar system.
If confirmed the newly found planet would be the solar system’s ninth planet. Pluto had that honor until it was demoted to dwarf planet status back in 2006.
The researchers say this possible new planet, they nicknamed “Planet Nine”, has a mass that’s about 10 times more than Earth and 5,000 times that of Pluto.
“Planet Nine” is thought to orbit the sun from a distance of nearly 20 times farther than Neptune, whose average distance to the sun is about 4.5 billion kilometers.
The Caltech researchers, Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown, who used mathematical modeling and computer simulations but not direct observations to make their discovery, figured that it would take “Planet Nine” between 10,000 and 20,000 years just to make one complete orbit around the sun.
“This would be a real ninth planet,” says Brown in a Caltech press release. “There have only been two true planets discovered since ancient times, and this would be a third. It’s a pretty substantial chunk of our solar system that’s still out there to be found, which is pretty exciting.”
Brown and Batygin, who reported their findings in the Astronomical Journal, say that this new presumed planet is so large that there should be no doubt that it’s a true planet, once confirmed.
The researchers say they’re continuing to fine-tune their simulations so that they can find out more about the planet’s orbit, its impact on the outer solar system and have begun, along with others, to scan the skies for a direct look at “Planet Nine”.Caltech Scientists Find Evidence of 9th Planet (Caltech)