Planet X | Caltech researchers have found evidence suggesting there may be a “Planet X” deep in the solar system.
This hypothetical Neptune-sized planet orbits our sun in a highly elongated orbit far beyond Pluto. The object, which the researchers have nicknamed “Planet Nine,” could have a mass about 10 times that of Earth and orbit about 20 times farther from the sun on average than Neptune. It may take between 10,000 and 20,000 Earth years to make one full orbit around the sun. Its existence has been revealed by the gravitational effects that it has on the most distant objects known in the solar system.
Astronomers from the Australian National University are investigating four unknown objects, each of which could be a candidate for a new, as yet unknown planet in our own solar system.
The search has already found two minor planets. That proves that the approach could eventually stumble on the much-rumoured Planet Nine, they say.
“We’ve managed to rule out a planet about the size of Neptune being in about 90 per cent of the southern sky out to a depth of about 350 times the distance the Earth is from the Sun,” said Brad Tucker, lead researcher on the project.
Professor Mike Brown and the researchers at Caltech recently inferred a mysterious planet’s existence based on orbital anomalies seen in objects in the Kuiper Belt, a disc-shaped region of comets and other larger bodies beyond Neptune. They have dubbed this planet Planet Nine. But there are a lot of mystery surrounding additional planets in our solar system and whether the two theoretical planets are the same is up for discussion. Daniel Whitmire, a retired professor of astrophysics now working at the University of Arkansas Department of Mathematical Sciences, suggests that the planet, also referred to as ‘Planet X’, triggers comet showers linked to mass extinctions on Earth at intervals of approximately 27 million years. Dr Whitmire said the new findings did not rule out a planet as he described in his original paper.
‘I feel very positive about the new evidence though the current estimates are not completely consistent with our Planet X model,’ Dr Whitmire told MailOnline.
‘However it may be possible that a smaller closer planet could also explain the anomalies in the orbits of the Kuiper belt objects since there are uncertainties in their estimates.’
‘The effect of a planet depends on both its mass and distance so a closer, less massive planet can produce similar gravitational effects. The Planet Nine authors acknowledge that other combinations of mass and distance can’t yet be ruled out.’
‘Two of the properties of Planet Nine, its orbital inclination (tilt) and eccentricity (elongation), are very consistent with our Planet X model requirements,’ Dr Whitmire told MailOnline.
Dr Robert S. Harrington, former head of the US Naval Observatory, calculated several parameters of Planet X and its orbit. Harrington started from the perturbations in the orbits of Neptune and Uranus, knowing that Pluto could not be responsible for them Those familiar with either the writings of Zecharia Sitchin or the current internet rantings about “the return of Planet X” are likely familiar with the word “Nibiru”.
According to self-proclaimed ancient languages scholar Zecharia Sitchin, the Sumerians knew of an extra planet beyond Pluto. This extra planet was called Nibiru. Sitchin goes on to claim that Nibiru passes through our solar system every 3600 years. Some believers in Sitchin’s theory also refer to Nibiru as “Planet X”, the name given to a planet that is allegedly located within our solar system but beyond Pluto. Adherents to the “returning Planet X hypothesis” believe the return of this wandering planet will bring cataclysmic consequences to earth.
According to Sitchin, Nibiru (called “the twelfth planet” because, Sitchin claimed, the Sumerians’ gods-given conception of the Solar System counted all eight planets, plus Pluto, the Sun, and the Moon) was the home of a technologically advanced human-like extraterrestrial race called the Anunnaki in Sumerian myth, who Sitchin states are called the Nephilim in Genesis. He wrote that they evolved after Nibiru entered the solar system and first arrived on Earth probably 450,000 years ago, looking for minerals, especially gold, which they found and mined in Africa. Sitchin states that these “gods” were the rank-and-file workers of the colonial expedition to Earth from planet Nibiru.
Now from his analysis of the ancient cuneiform texts, Sitchin puts forward the view that Nibiru is in a highly eccentric orbit around our Sun, wherein the planet spends most of its time well out beyond Pluto. Its placement upon the Cylinder Seal somewhere between Mars and Jupiter though is explained by Sitchin as being chosen to designate its perihelion or closest approach to the sun, which he indeed theorizes to be somewhere halfway between Mars and Jupiter. Now further to this, according to Sitchin, the planet Nibiru is one that was not an original member of the solar system when it was first formed, but one that came into our solar system after its original configuration was well established. It was the manner of entry of the body into the system, and ultimate capture by the sun, that established its orbit with a perihelion between Mars and Jupiter.
The essential astronomical narrative that Sitchin presents from his study of the Cuneiform Tablets as to the early formation of the solar system, is in point of fact, based upon a ‘mythological’ description of various battles between powerful Gods within the heavens. Sitchin actively interprets stories of the wars and intrigues between various gods, as referring to actual celestial events e.g. two gods clash in battle, means two planets physically crash into one another. etc. In brief, Sitchin’s narrative, with accompanying diagrams as cited from his books, is as follows:
…the Mesopotamian and biblical sources present strong evidence that the orbital period of the 12th planet is 3600 years. The number 3600 was written in Sumerian as a large circle. The epithet for the planet – shar (“supreme ruler”) – also meant “a perfect circle,” a “completed cycle.” It also meant the number 3600. And the identity of the three terms-planet/orbit/3600-could not be a mere coincidence. (p.247-8).
Essentially, Sitchin appears to throw his lot in entirely with Harrington’s mass estimate for Planet X, claiming that this must be the mass of Nibiru, under his own system. That said, however, it is important to note that all of the other key orbital elements proposed by Harrington are roundly rejected by Sitchin. The most obvious of course is the proposed orbital period of Planet X. Harrington’s value of 1019 years is markedly different from Sitchin’s proposed value of 3600 years. Indeed, the very orbit itself as described by Harrington in no way conforms to that of Sitchin, as would lead to the deep penetration of Planet X into the inner solar system.
It is important to realize that when these scientists produced their papers and developed their solutions for Planet X, they were completely unaware of the existence of a second asteroid belt within our solar system, just out beyond Neptune. Discovered in 1992, and commonly referred to today as the Kuiper belt, the existence of this additional asteroid field came to light some two years after the paper published by Neuhauser and Fritzinger, and four years after the paper published by Harrington.
Now astronomers will point telescopes around the world at the unknown objects to find out whether they are Planet Nine, other dwarf planets or just asteroids.
ANU is launching a search for a new planet in our Solar System, inviting anyone around the world with access to the Internet to help make the historic discovery. Anyone who helps find the so-called Planet 9 will work with ANU astronomers to validate the discovery through the International Astronomical Union.
ANU astrophysicist Dr Brad Tucker is leading the project, which is being launched by Professor Brian Cox during a BBC Stargazing Live broadcast from the ANU Siding Spring Observatory. Astronomers studying the Kuiper Belt have noticed some of the dwarf planets and other small, icy objects tend to follow orbits that cluster together.
By analyzing these orbits, the Caltech team predicted the possibility that a large, previously undiscovered planet may be hiding far beyond Pluto. Astronomers, including Batygin and Brown, will begin using the world’s most powerful telescopes to search for the object in its predicted orbit.
“I would love to find it,” says Brown. “But I’d also be perfectly happy if someone else found it. That is why we’re publishing this paper. We hope that other people are going to get inspired and start searching.”
“Anytime we have an interesting idea like this, we always apply Carl Sagan’s rules for critical thinking, which include independent confirmation of the facts, looking for alternate explanations, and encouraging scientific debate,” said Green. “If Planet X is out there, we’ll find it together. Or we’ll determine an alternate explanation for the data that we’ve received so far.
|Aphelion||1,200 AU (est.)|
|Perihelion||200 AU (est.)|
|700 AU (est.)|
|10,000 to 20,000 years|
|Inclination||30° to ecliptic (est.)|
|13,000 to 26,000 km (8,000–16,000 mi)
2–4 R⊕ (est.)
|Mass||6×1025 kg (est.)
≥10 M⊕ (est.)
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