Some of you may remember a time when there were nine planets in the solar system, which ended with tiny Pluto. Then, Pluto experienced a “cruel demotion” to dwarf planet, the largest known in an area of the outer reaches of our accepted solar system, called the Kuiper Belt. A couple of new studies suggest that perhaps we are going to have once again make adjustments as to how we define our solar system.
Calculations by scientists at the Complutense University of Madrid in Spain and the University of Cambridge strongly suggest that there is not one but two dwarf planets some distance beyond tiny Pluto. Space.com labeled the theorized worlds planets “X” and “Y”, but the same article also says that the true number of potential planets could be greater than just the two.
“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”
This is a very significant statement given the long-held views about where our solar system begins and ends. If it turns out that there are several additional planets in our solar system, to say it would alter our understanding of our small corner of the universe would be an understatement. It could be that the composition of those worlds again challenge how we identify planets, as the debate over the status of Pluto once did.
These undiscovered planets are certainly larger than Pluto and scientists believe they may be more massive than the Earth.
— Newsweek (@Newsweek) January 18, 2015
The reason it would be nearly impossible to confirm the location and size of the planets mentioned in the study is that they are so far beyond Neptune and Pluto that they would be very hard to see with any of the instruments currently available to scientists. Some believe that at present, there are no such tools available to find them.
Despite such limitations, this information is considered a huge boost for those who had long argued about the existence of a Planet X. Since the discovery of Neptune in 1846, Planet X has come to represent an urgent quest to map out our place in the known universe and understand as much as possible about our surroundings.
As this research promises to shift our knowledge of way our solar system works once more, some are wondering if this may reopen the case for making Pluto a planet once more.
[Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons]