Bryce Getchell | @PorkFryedBryce
Lately there has been quite a buzz about Planet Nine. More and more articles have been popping up since the annual Division of Planetary Science meeting that was held last week. While the search for Planet Nine had never really stopped, it had definitely died down. However, this meeting seems to have ignited that spark and once more the hunt for Planet Nine is on!
Planet Nine is a hypothetical planet residing far out in the Solar System. Beyond the Kuiper Belt, there is a number of trans-Neptunian objects that have an improbable orbital pattern. The gravitational effects of a planet such as Planet Nine, would explain for the orbit of these objects.
Measuring the effects gravity to determine the location is not a new science. In fact, after the discovery of Uranus, astronomers noticed an irregularity in the planet’s orbit. They determined that the only logical explanation would be if another undiscovered planet existed and influenced its orbit. Using mathematics, astronomers calculated the gravitational effects of such a planet and predicted where it might be (even how much mass it would have to have) and began searching in this predicted location. Neptune was discovered that very night.
It is amazing how many astronomers are banding together to prove the existence of this hypothetical planet. Using simulated models of our Solar System in which Planet Nine exists, these scientists have given us information on what the planet might look like and of its possible size.
At 700 times the distance of the Earth to the Sun, this new planet would have a very long elliptical orbit; estimated once every ten to twenty thousand years. It is also estimated to be similar to Earth. More like a super Earth, many many times larger in size and in mass than our own planet.
Due to its distance, planet nine is predicted to be very faint, with our best chance of even spotting it lies with using some of the largest and most powerful telescopes created. But with the increasing popularity to locate this planet, the demand for these telescopes are astronomical (HA! See what I did there!) and scientists are actually competing to use them for a few nights at a time.
So far, astronomers have not had any luck spotting the Planet. However, the massive search has already turned up some new discoveries and potential evidence of the planet’s existence. Apparently there is a number of objects that lurk around the far reaches of the Solar System. While these objects don’t stray too far from the Sun, they also never really come in towards it.
This my friends, is what astronomy is all about. There is so much that has been discovered by generations before us, now we once again have the opportunity to find another planet within our Solar System. You don’t need to be a certified astronomer to jump into the hunt, a great way to start is by finding more information here and by keeping up with UpportunityU as we bring you the latest in space exploration and technology.