How many planets are there in our solar system? In your opinion, the answer is eight or nine. In 2016, two Caltech researchers presented evidence of a new ninth planet.
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The announcement divided the space community with several claiming that astronomers had not submitted enough evidence to support this claim. Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin have published two articles analyzing research done in the last three years.
Two papers reveal new evidence
Newspapers shed more light on the alleged location and composition of the planet. The first article is entitled "Orbital Clustering in the Remote Solar System" and discusses the theory that the clustering of objects in the Kuiper Belt beyond Neptune is influenced by gravitational attraction. from an invisible planet.
However, this theory has been questioned by experts who suggest that this gravitational pull is biased by how and where objects are observed. This first article was published in The Astronomical Journal on January 22nd.
Computer models provide a solid foundation for future research
To understand if this observation bias is present, both researchers quantified the importance of bias in each individual observation and then calculated the probability that the classification was parasitic. This probability, they said, is about 1 in 500.
"While this analysis does not say anything directly about whether Planet Nine is there, it does indicate that the hypothesis rests on a solid foundation," says Brown, professor of planetary astronomy Richard and Barbara Rosenberg.
The second article, titled "The New Planet Hypothesis," is a guest review that will be published in the next issue of Physics Reports.
Planet closer to the sun than we thought
This article describes the composition of the planet, including an estimate that it is smaller and closer to the sun than we previously thought. The document provides thousands of new computer models of the evolution of the remote solar system.
Based on these models, a group of researchers at the University of Michigan suggests that Planet Nine has a mass about five times greater than that of the Earth.
"With five land masses, Planet Nine will probably look a lot like a typical extrasolar super-Earth," says Batygin, assistant professor of planetary science and researcher Van Nuys Page.
"This is the missing link in the solar system for planet formation, and over the past decade, extrasolar planetary surveys have revealed that planets of similar size are very common around other sun-like stars. Nine planet will be the closest thing we will find to a window on the properties of a typical planet of our galaxy ".
In 2016, Batygin and Brown presented for the first time the idea that a giant planet could orbit the outer solar system.
They said that this planet could explain many phenomena observed in the solar system, including the reason why certain objects in the Kuiper belt have an orbit perpendicular to the plane of the solar system.
After the announcement of January 20, 2016, astronomers around the world began searching for new evidence of the mysterious planet.
Optimistic researchers think that they will find a planet in the decade
Although Brown and Batygin have always graciously accepted that the planet may not exist, they say that the more evidence they have, the more likely they will be that Planet Nine exists.
My favorite feature of Planet Nine's hypothesis is that it is verifiable by observation, "says Batygin.
"The prospect of one day seeing real Planet Nine images is absolutely electrifying, and while finding Planet Nine's astronomy is a daunting task, I'm very optimistic that we will imagine it in the next 10 years. . "