Sci­en­tists dis­cover an elu­sive Planet Nine

CityPress - - News - ATHANDIWE SABA athandiwe.saba@city­press.co.za

Sci­en­tists at the Cal­i­for­nia In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy (Cal­tech) have found ev­i­dence in the outer so­lar sys­tem of an ob­ject that could be a ninth planet – and it’s fur­ther away than dwarf planet Pluto.

Kon­stantin Baty­gin and Mike Brown, re­searchers at Cal­tech, might have found the an­swer to the odd-look­ing space rocks spin­ning in align­ment. Though per­plexed at first, as­tronomers and re­searchers have an­nounced that a huge ninth planet has been dis­cov­ered at the edge of the so­lar sys­tem.

Ac­cord­ing to CNN, the planet, nick­named Planet Nine, has a mass about 10 times that of Earth and or­bits about 20 times far­ther from the sun than Nep­tune.

That means a year on Planet Nine is as long as be­tween 10 000 and 20 000 Earth years.

The re­searchers at Cal­tech – the univer­sity at which sci­ence sit­com The Big Bang The­ory is set – said that the planet’s dis­tance from the sun would mean it is ex­tremely cold.

They also said it had evaded de­tec­tion for so long be­cause of how far away it is.

Re­searchers have cal­cu­lated that the clos­est the planet comes to the sun is 15 times the dis­tance from Pluto, and a ray of sun­shine would take up to a week to get there.

“There have only been two true plan­ets dis­cov­ered since an­cient times, and this would be a third. It’s a pretty sub­stan­tial chunk of our so­lar sys­tem that’s still out there to be found, which is pretty ex­cit­ing,” said Brown.

The re­searchers are quite con­fi­dent that Planet Nine is large enough to rule out any fur­ther de­bate about whether or not it is a new planet. Pluto was dis­cov­ered in 1930, but was later re­clas­si­fied and down­graded as a dwarf planet.

But there are still some reser­va­tions about the planet – one fo­cuses on how such a large planet could be on the fur­thest edges of the so­lar sys­tem and re­main un­de­tected.

The planet is so large that with sen­si­tive tele­scopes, as­tronomers should be able to see it cross­ing the night sky. The search has al­ready be­gun with the Subaru tele­scope in Hawaii.

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