Potential orbit of mysterious Planet Nine has been plotted by scientists!

on . Posted in Articles of Interest

PASADENA, Kalifornia (PNN) - August 30, 2021 - Scientists have debated the existence of Planet Nine since it was first introduced several years ago, but a new study has determined the orbit of the alleged celestial object.

Caltech researchers Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin have plotted the orbital path of the mystical planet, which has yet to be discovered.

In a blog post, Brown detailed that the “highest probability” of Planet Nine's location is near aphelion - the point at which it is furthest from the sun - around 60 degrees in Right Ascension, “pretty close to the galactic plane.”

If in fact Planet Nine were at the median distance of aphelion right now, it would be roughly 500 astronomical units (AU), or approximately 46.5 billion miles away from the sun.

When plotting the full-sky, astronomers go from 360 to 0 in Right Ascension.

One AU is the equivalent of approximately 93 million miles.

“Using samples of the orbital elements and estimates of the radius and albedo of such a planet, we calculate the probability distribution function of the on-sky position of Planet Nine and of its brightness,” the researchers wrote in the study. “For many reasonable assumptions, Planet Nine is closer and brighter than initially expected, though the probability distribution includes a long tail to larger distances, and uncertainties in the radius and albedo of Planet Nine could yield fainter objects.”

Brown and Batygin created the map by looking at some of the known objects in the Kuiper Belt - icy bodies past Neptune - many of which have odd orbits that the researchers believe may be affected by Planet Nine.

The researchers used the clustering of the Kuiper Belt Objects as a sign that Planet Nine exists given how unusual it would be for this to occur naturally.

“After updating calculations of observational biases, we find that the clustering remains significant at the 99.6% confidence level,” the study's authors wrote, meaning there is only 0.4% chance of the clustering being a weird, fluky occurrence.

More than 2,000 objects in the Kuiper Belt have been identified, but there could be hundreds of thousands more in the region, according to NASA.

In their analysis, they estimate that Planet Nine has a mass of 6.2 times that of the Earth and a periphelion (the point at which it is closest to the sun) of around 300 AU.

It also has an inclination - how much it tilts compared to the solar system's plane - of around 16 degrees.

By contrast, the Earth has an inclination of 0 degrees, while Pluto's inclination is 17 degrees.

The study has been accepted into Astronomical Journal and a preprint version of it is available on arXiv.

Planet Nine and its existence have been controversial, with many other researchers claiming it doesn't exist.

In February, a group of researchers stated that the unusual orbits in the Kuiper Belt may be an illusion.

In January 2019, a separate study also said the unusual orbits of objects in the Kuiper Belt could be due to a wide disk of small icy objects impacting other the orbits of objects.

Others have suggested the object is a mirage or may be a black hole the size of a grapefruit.

Conversely, some other scientists have sided with Brown and Batygin, suggesting the mystical planet is real and could be found in the next decade or so with higher powered telescopes.

Researchers have already found an exoplanet that has properties similar to Planet Nine, 336 light-years from Earth, HD106906 b, which was identified by the Hubble Space Telescope.

In 2017, NASA released a statement stating that Planet Nine may be 20 times the distance from the sun that Neptune is, adding a comment from Batygin who said, “It is now harder to imagine our solar system without a Planet Nine than with one.”

In 2019, researchers published a study that suggested Planet Nine may have already been found by NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite.

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