Mysterious Mars-sized object lurking at edge of solar system
Jun 27 2017
The object is pictured on a wide orbit far beyond Pluto in this artist's illustration. In the early months of previous year, a separate group discovered the presence of a Neptune sized body orbiting the sun beyond the reaches of Pluto, in the Kuiper belt at a distance about 25 times further away from the sun as compared to Pluto.
Scientists have foundevidence that an unseen planet is lurking around the edges of the solar system, Tech Times reports. What gave this potential planet away was the fact it could be controlling the orbital planes of Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) - a group of space rocks. New research from the University of Arizona hints that there may be another planet out there, waiting for us to find it. If Planet 10 isn't out there, that means something else is causing the unusual orbits of all the objects in the Kuiper Belt, which might be an even bigger mystery. These tilted orbital planes for most of the KBO's average to something which has become known as the invariable plane of the solar system.
Details about the findings were recently published in Astronomical Journal, where both Renu Malhotra and Kat Volk detail the reasons why this object may be a new planetary body. Objects in the Kuiper Belt orbit at an incline relative to the rest of the solar system. Kuiper Belt objects wobble like tops, but by averaging their orbital orientation astronomers can search out a pattern.
The planet-mass object would be about 60 AU from the Sun. Since the solar system is gravitationally isolated, scientists would expect the orbits of TNOs to have similar orientations.
"We expect LSST to bring the number of observed KBOs from now about 2,000 to 40,000", says Renu Malhotra, co-author of the study. Planet Nine is positioned 500 to 700 astronomical units (AU) from our planet Earth, and the mass of the Planet Nine is about 10 times that of Earth.
When the discovery was made, Mike Brown, the lead head of the research, noted that there is a highly probable existence of a ninth planet. It also contains small icy rocks and dwarf planets. That something might be something large and something heavy, Volk said.
Because a planet, by definition, has to have cleared its orbit of minor planets such as KBOs, the authors refer to the hypothetical mass as a planetary mass object. "If it's the size of Mars, that is a pretty big object, which would suggest it would be most likely scattered out there by planetary movements further in", says Volk. If Planet 10 does exist it'll only be a matter of time until we find it.
Another possible explanation for the warp is that a star may have passed near the solar system, causing the warp. "Once the star is gone, all the KBOs will go back to precessing around their previous plane". Run by a consortium that includes the UA and scheduled for first light in 2020, the instrument will take unprecedented, real-time surveys of the sky, night after night.
Malhotra said she has high expectations for the telescope, as she said it should bring the number of discovered Kuiper Belt objects from 2,000 to about 40,000.
We haven't seen it yet, of course, and that might be tricky.
The new LSST telescope that will cover the sky more expansively than the current assessment apparatus, it should discover the objects closely and determine their magnitude.