Earlier this year, scientists made a stunning claim: a ninth planet may be orbiting in an elliptical path around the sun.
“There’s good news for those who were annoyed when Pluto was knocked off the list of planets. According to a pair of scientists at Caltech, there may actually be nine planets in the Solar System after all.”
Caltech researchers point out that Planet Nine has yet to be observed. Its existence has been theorized after mathematical modeling pointed strongly to the existence of a planet in that position. Computer simulations derived from the orbits of six Kuiper Belt objects (objects with unusual orbits) were used to develop the Planet Nine hypothesis.
Planet Nine is 10 times farther from our Sun than Pluto, according to Science Daily. Researchers Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown say that it is 10 times the mass of Earth and circling the Sun in a highly elliptical orbit. Planet Nine is 20 times the distance of Neptune from earth, which means it is about 36 billion mi (60 billion km) away.
A year on Planet Nine is the equivalent of roughly 10,000 to 20,000 Earth years.
“The evidence points to Planet Nine existing, but we can’t explain for certain how it was produced.”
Scientists are still unsure how the planet was produced. Many are wondering: How did it end up orbiting earth at such a great distance?
“If Planet Nine exists, it’s been through one hell of an ordeal… [how could a planet] have gotten itself into such a whacked-out orbit?”
Gizmodo reported this month that Planet Nine may have gotten “punted out” of our solar system when it got to close to Jupiter. Astronomer Scott Kenyon told Gizmodo that the few first million years of the Sun’s life was a chaotic time, with young gas giants crashing into each other and sucking up matter.
Kenyon and fellow astronomer Benjamin Bromley used computer simulations to construct plausible scenarios for the formation of Planet Nine and its current positioning in such a wide orbit.
Bromley and Kenyon propose that Planet Nine formed much closer to the Sun and then interacted with Jupiter, Saturn, and other gas giants. A series of “gravitational kicks” may have deposited Planet Nine into its present orbit, and also made its orbit more elliptical.
As for what caused Planet Nine to slow down enough to remain in our solar system, Kenyon explained that the gaseous disk that surrounded the early Sun could have produced enough friction to slow Planet Nine down.
“If you have the right mass of planet and the right mass of gas, you can damp the orbit and circularize it.”
Another plausible scenario is that a passing star affected Planet Nine’s orbit, pulling it away from the sun and making its orbit more elliptical.
CNet reports that if the “passing star” scenario is true, it is quite surprising that the star did not pull Planet Nine out of our solar system completely.
“A passing star is far more likely to pull the planet out of its orbit completely and chuck it into space.”
A final, third theory, also by Kenyon and Bromley, proposes that Planet Nine formed all the way out there in its current orbit.
The scientists admit that this the scenario is unlikely but plausible if the protoplanetary disk lived long enough, and had enough mass.
“Our idea is that as the gaseous disk is going away, it develops a hole, which gets bigger and bigger until the disk is gone. “As this hole is getting bigger, material outside the hole sweeps up solid particles like a snowplow, and deposits them at a large distance.” Over the course of hundreds of millions of years, all of those plowed up ice shavings snowballed into one another, resulting in a jawbreaker about twice the size of the Earth.”
[Photo by NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI via Getty Images]