Caltech researchers have discovered proof of a giant planet following an unusual, highly elongated orbit in the outer part of the solar system. Nicknamed as Planet Nine, this planet has the mass 10 times that of Earth and orbits 20 times farther from the sun than does Neptune, achieving one full revolution between 10,000 to 20,000 years.
Mike Brown, the Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor of Planetary Astronomy, said that this could be the third true planet to have been discovered since ancient times. He is optimistic that others are still waiting to be found.
This potential ninth planet has a mass 5,000 times more massive than Pluto which is enough to not cause any arguments about its authenticity as a true planet. Plus, unlike dwarf planets, Planet Nine dominates its solar system and it gravitationally dominates a region larger than any known planet.
The study, published in Astronomical Journal, says that Planet Nine explains why 13 objects move together in an area beyond Neptune known as the Kuiper Belt. The researchers figured that only a massive planet could be causing this effect.
Other experts believe that more research must be conducted to confirm this giant planet but astronomer Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution in Washington D.C. said that it is a very strong possibility that this planet exists out there.
“If it exists, it should be detectable,” The Astronomer Royal Professor Sir Martin Rees added. “So we must wait until searches with big telescopes have been carried out.
However, the planet’s exact location on the path is not yet known. The researchers may be able to finally take its images if the planet is close to its perihelion or the point in the orbit of a planet when it is nearest to the sun.
Scott Kenyon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said that this could help scientists understand the birth of the solar system. Additionally, the solar system would resemble like any other planetary systems in the galaxy once Planet Nine will be officially added in it.