The 100 year old hunt for Planet X
- After the discovery of Neptune in 1846, irregularities in Uranus' orbit led scientists to believe that there could be a giant planet somewhere in the far reaches of the solar system.
- In 1906, American tycoon Percival Lowell began the search for "Planet X" from his observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona.
- In spite of no results, the hunt for Planet X continued well into the 1990s.
Michael Brown, the planet slayer
- Michael E. Brown, born 5 June 1965, is famous for his role in stripping Pluto of its status as a planet.
- In 2005, Brown discovered Eris, a trans-Neptunian object roughly the size of Pluto.
- Brown concluded that Pluto was just one of the many small, icy worlds found in the Kuiper Belt region beyond Neptune, following which Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet.
Who is Konstantin Batygin?
- Konstantin Batygin is a computer modeler and Assistant Professor of Planetary Sciences at Caltech.
- While in college, Batygin modeled the fate of the solar system over billions of years and showed that, in rare cases, the solar system was unstable.
- His achievement brought him recognition, and he made the 2015 Forbes list of 30 scientists under 30 who were changing the world.
Why do scientists believe that Planet X exists?
- Brown and Batygin inferred the existence of Planet X by observing the peculiar clustering of six objects that orbit beyond Neptune.
- They calculated that there was only a 0.007% chance that the clustering could be a coincidence.
- The existence of a giant planet's gravitational pull would explain the clustering of objects in strange elliptical orbits titled out of the plane of the solar system.
Brown's method of planet detection
Brown's method - inferring the existence of Planet X from its gravitational effects - is quite successful. In 1846, Urbain Le Verrier predicted the existence of a planet beyond Uranus using the same technique. The planet discovered was Neptune.
So what could Planet X be like?
- According to calculations, Planet X is expected to be 10 times the mass of the earth with a highly elliptical orbit.
- The closest it comes to the sun is 15 times the distance to Pluto, and it then heads into uncharted territory 93 billion miles from the sun.
- According to projections, it takes Planet X a staggering 10,000-20,000 years to orbit the sun once.
Caltech scientists say Planet X exists
22 Jan 2016
- According to respected planetary scientists Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), evidence points to the existence of a ninth planet in the solar system.
- Scientists had been in search of the mythical Planet X, as it is popularly dubbed, for over a 100 years without any success.
- However, Brown added, "This is different because this time we're right."
The renewed hunt for Planet X
- Brown and Batygin's study has rekindled the scientific community's interest in Planet X.
- Subaru, an 8-meter Japanese telescope in Hawaii with enough light gathering capabilities to detect a faint object like a planet, is currently being used to look for Planet X.
- Brown says it will take around 5 years to search most of the area where Planet X is suspected to be lurking.
Planet 9: Secret, dark world may be hiding within our solar system | Science | News | The Independent
Evidence suggests huge ninth planet exists past Pluto at solar system's edge | Science | The Guardian
PC: '2MASSJ22282889-431026' by NASA/JPL-Caltech - http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov/image/114. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons -
PC: 'Percival Lowell observing Venus from the Lowell Observatory in 1914' by Unknown - Reconstructed from several online sources by Joe Haythornthwaite. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons -