Welcome To The Solar System, Planet X
But first, some context: In 2006, after much debate and hand-wringing within the scientific community, the ice ball Pluto was retired from our solar system and demoted to a “Dwarf Planet”. Lunchroom bullies that we are, we then drew a metaphorical line around our solar system and relegated Pluto to what is known as the Kuiper belt, a ring of celestial bodies beyond the orbit of Neptune also sometimes called “trans-Neptunian objects” or TNO.
Discovered in the 1930s, Pluto enjoyed 76 years on the roster before the discovery of other similar celestial bodies in the Kuiper belt and the “scattered disc”, a distant circumstellar disc, which includes the dwarf planet “Eris”. The International Astronomical Union finally had enough of this icy celestial poser and decided to formally define the term “planet” as containing the following:
Is in orbit around theSun,
Assumes hydrostatic equilibrium or “is round”.
Has "cleared the neighborhood" around its orbit. (Basically, it is the object with the strongest gravitational pull relative to anything else nearby.)
Pluto was benched. But the search for the ninth planet continued. You see, there was still the curious issue of the Kuiper belt cluster pattern even if Pluto was determined a part of the cluster rather than the gravitational object pulling them along. The theory of “Planet X” way out in the further reaches from the sun, further than the disgraced Pluto, had been in play for years as an explanation for the orientation of TNOs.There were also theories that the cause could ALSO be a debris ring large enough to exert similar gravitational effects or even a primordial black hole. Some scientists just did not want to get down with a ninth planet from the sun.
Well, too bad. According to new research from Mike Brown (the man who defamed Pluto himself) and Konstantin Batygin of the California Institute of Technology, Planet Nine may not only exist but could be closer and brighter than previously thought. Previous study of the gravitational pull affecting Kuiper’s belt included objects yanked around by Neptune’s gravity, distorting the data. The new research attempted to separate those TNOs from a final group of 11 objects and, with that new data set, the Cal Tech team determined that SOMETHING big had to be clustering the orbits of those far-out celestial bodies. They gave it about a 99.6% chance to be precise.
Of course, if Planet Nine is out there, disrupting astrology reports all over the world, it’s beyond what we can see from Earth with our current instruments. But hopefully, with the Vera C. Rubin Observatory’s first light in 2023 or even a lunar radio telescope on the moon towards the end of the 2020s, the mystery of Planet Nine and its possible 10,000-year orbit will be revealed. Honestly, what’s a Milky Way System without a ninth planet? It’s just absurd.
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