Since the exclusion of Pluto from the category of planets inIn 2006, people still believe that our solar system is home to just 8 planets. However, several years ago, a whole hype about the possibility of the existence of another planetary object, which received the unofficial name of the Ninth Planet or Planet X, arose in the scientific community. The astronomers, who originally proposed the hypothesis of its existence, recently published two scientific papers (in the journal Physics Reports and The Astronomical Journal), in which they cited the results of an analysis of all the discoveries of recent years related to the probability of the existence of this hypothetical object.
At the beginning of 2016, two famous planetologistsCalifornia Institute of Technology Konstantin Batygin and Michael Brown came up with the hypothesis of the existence of a huge planetary object, whose orbit lies somewhere behind Pluto and Neptune. The scientists supported their hypothesis with the results of observations of the small celestial bodies of the Kuiper belt. The researchers found that at least 6 objects in it being located show the same unusual behavior pattern - with respect to the plane of rotation of the other planets, their orbit was deflected by 30 degrees. Further computer calculations showed that some very large source of gravity of unknown nature must be responsible for the strange behavior of objects of the Kuiper belt.
In the course of subsequent research, astronomerssuggested that this mysterious object may be 10 times heavier than the Earth, and its orbit is 104 billion kilometers away from the Sun. According to scientists, an object with such a huge distance to our Luminary should make one revolution around it for 15 thousand years.
Currently, the search for "Planet X" is notbrought success - Brown, Batygin and their "competitors" could only limit the search area of this planet. A number of other scientists questioned its existence, noting that observations of unusual orbits of some objects can be explained by inaccurate calculations or some other random factor. Still others said that instability in the behavior of objects could be caused by the impact of already open worlds in the Kuiper belt, where this hypothetical giant planet is located. According to the findings of one of the latest studies, some features of the behavior of a part of trans-Neptunian objects could be explained without the presence of a mysterious planet - a cluster of small objects with general gravity.
Batygin and Brown decided to respond to criticismcolleagues, combining and analyzing all the discoveries of recent years, which are presumably related to the presence or absence of an unknown planet beyond the orbits of Pluto and Neptune.
As the researchers point out, the analysis of suchhuge amount of data showed that the probability of the existence of the Ninth Planet is now close to 100 percent. At the same time, as noted by the planetologists of the Caltech, the opponents of the hypothesis of the existence of the Ninth Planet have not yet managed to find a single really solid argument in favor of its absence.
In addition, in the course of the new work, scientiststo clarify the calculations of the trajectory of its movement, which unexpectedly showed that the initial estimate of its mass, the angle of inclination of the orbit, and the distance to the object were significantly overestimated. It turned out that in terms of size, it rather resembles not a miniature copy of Neptune, as originally thought, but “super-Earth.” The object should be located at a distance of 400-500 astronomical units from the Sun (1 astronomical unit = average distance between the Sun and the Earth), which is about 1.5 times lower than the initial estimates. As for its mass, according to new calculations, it should be only 5 times more than that of the earth, the researchers note, which is also several times less than the initial assumptions.
Such changes, as explained by planetologists,related to the fact that in 2016, astronomers did not know of the existence of a single object, the semi-major axis of whose orbit would be longer than 250 astronomical units. In recent years, 14 such celestial bodies were discovered at once, which significantly changed the idea of the structure of the outer borders of the solar system.
Regardless of whether or not Caltech planetary scientists are rightor not, the hunt for the Ninth Planet will continue. Batygin and Brown admit that there may be some inaccuracies in the new calculations, but they are confident that the planet will be officially discovered sooner or later.
"The advantage of the hypothesis of the existence of the" Ninththe planet ”is that it is verifiable. The opportunity to see it with my own eyes, of course, cannot but inspire the continuation of searches. In my opinion, we will be able to find it within the next decade, ”concludes Batygin.
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