Scientists claim that at least two planets, larger than Earth, likely lurk in our solar system in the dark depths beyond Pluto.
According to NBC News, scientists studying “extreme trans-Neptunian objects” (ETNOs) have analyzed data that suggests at least two icy planets, larger than earth, exist in the dark depths of our solar system. The research suggests that these frigid planets would exist far beyond Pluto in the out reaches of our solar system. The study consisted of looking at 13 different ETNOs. These icy bodies are known to cruise around the sun in large elliptical paths.
One already discovered ETNO is Sedna. Space.com notes that “Sedna is a dwarf planet that is one of the most distant bodies found in our solar system. The object’s closest approach to the sun is far greater than Pluto’s distance away from Earth — at a spot where the sun is so tiny, according to NASA, that you could blot it out with a pin.”
Space.com reports that researchers came to the conclusion that large ETNOs must exist due to “unexpected orbital parameters” of the previously discovered dwarf planets. Scientists claim there must be a certain set of details for ETNO orbits. They would follow relatively closely to these parameters unless there is an outside force altering the parameters in some way.
“For example, they should have a semi-major axis, or average distance from the sun, of about 150 astronomical units (AU). (1 AU is the distance from Earth to the sun — roughly 93 million miles.) These orbits should also have an inclination, relative to the plane of the solar system, of almost 0 degrees, among other characteristics.”
However, when studying 13 previously discovered ETNOs, the scientists found that these characteristics varied greatly. For example, “the actual orbits of the 13 ETNOs are quite different, with semi-major axes ranging from 150 to 525 AU and average inclinations of about 20 degrees.” Therefore, scientists believe there must be something out there disrupting standard orbital patterns.
The study’s lead author, Carlos de la Fuente Marcos, of the Complutense University of Madrid, says that the likely explanation is large undiscovered planets lurking outside of Pluto.
“This excess of objects with unexpected orbital parameters makes us believe that some invisible forces are altering the distribution of the orbital elements of the ETNOs, and we consider that the most probable explanation is that other unknown planets exist beyond Neptune and Pluto. The exact number is uncertain, given that the data that we have is limited, but our calculations suggest that there are at least two planets, and probably more, within the confines of our solar system.”
Scientists note that these planets would need to be larger than Earth and lie 200 AU or more from the sun. Therefore, they are so far away it would be almost impossible to view these planets with the scientific instruments currently available.
[Image Source: NASA/JPL-CALTECH]