And still more evidence has been presented to suggest that there are not only the eight known worlds in the solar train of planets but that there exists a yet undiscovered massive world — a Planet X or Planet Nine — that orbits in the outer Solar System. Researchers at the University of Michigan constructed computer simulations that indicate the odd orbital patterns of what have been dubbed Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs) are better explained with the addition of a super-Earth-sized planet to perturb said orbits.
Phys.org reported this week that University of Michigan researchers led by Department of Astronomy graduate student Juliette Becker conducted a large number of computer simulations on the possible existence of Planet Nine that ultimately revealed two results concerning TNOs. The researchers were able to determine a Planet Nine model that would be consistent in making the Solar System exist the way it does where the TNOs are not destroyed or expelled from the Solar System. The simulations also predicted a process that they labeled “resonance hopping,” which is where a TNO is drawn between stable orbits, thus preventing the TNOs from being forcibly catapulted out of the Solar System.
The “resonance hopping” is important in that it explains how the TNOs might be drawn into an orbit by the gravitational pull of Neptune, then subsequently be pulled into a different orbit by the hypothetical Planet Nine. Without something exerting some type of gravitational pull on them, the simulations found, TNOs should have been expelled from the Solar System over the last few hundreds of million years.
The research consisted of running computer simulations with certain characteristics concerning the predicted Planet Nine and observing whether or not the Solar System eventually came to resemble the Solar System as it exists today.
“From that set of simulations, we found out that there are preferred versions of Planet Nine that make the TNO stay stable for longer, so it basically increases the probability that our solar system exists the way it does.”
Becker added about the team’s work, “Through these computer simulations, we were able to determine which realization of Planet Nine creates our solar system—the whole caveat here being, if Planet Nine is real.”
The simulations follow on the heels of a statement from CalTech planetary astrophysicist Konstantin Batygin, one of original researchers who first proposed the existence of a planet far out in the outer Solar System as the cause of perturbations in a number of objects within the Kuiper Belt, who last week stated that there now exist five lines of evidence supporting the existence of Planet Nine (including the directionality of the perturbations). Batygin also noted that the final piece of the Planet Nine puzzle would be the discovery of the massive planet itself.
Becker echoed Batygin’s sentiment, saying that the “ultimate goal” was to find Planet Nine. She added, “Since we haven’t yet been able to find it, despite many people looking, we’re stuck with these kinds of indirect methods.”
Phys.org also reported that another TNO has been discovered as well. Becker and her team included the object in their simulations and found that it also experienced “resonance hopping” when paired with the existence of a Planet Nine.
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