Planet Nine’s ( Nibiru ) days of lurking unseen in the dark depths of the outer solar system may be numbered.
The hypothetical giant planet, which is thought to be about 10 times more massive than Earth, will be discovered within 16 months or so, astronomer Mike Brown predicted.
Planet Nine is a hypothetical large planet in the far outer Solar System, the gravitational effects of which would explain the improbable orbital configuration of a group of trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) that orbit mostly beyond the Kuiper belt.
Nibiru – In a 2014 letter to the journal Nature, astronomers Chad Trujillo and Scott S. Sheppard inferred the possible existence of a massive trans-Neptunian planet from similarities in the orbits of the distant trans-Neptunian objects Sedna and 2012 VP113.
On 20 January 2016, researchers Konstantin Batygin and Michael E. Brown at Caltech explained how a massive outer planet would be the likeliest explanation for the similarities in orbits of six distant objects, and they proposed specific orbital parameters.
The predicted planet would be a super-Earth, with an estimated mass of 10 Earths (approximately 5,000 times the mass of Pluto), a diameter two to four times that of Earth, and a highly elliptical orbit with an orbital period of approximately 15,000 years.
On the basis of models of planet formation that might include planetary migration from the inner Solar System, such as the fifth giant planet hypothesis, Batygin and Brown suggest that it may be a primordial giant planet core that was ejected from its original orbit during the nebular epoch of the Solar System’s evolution – Wikipedia.
“I’m pretty sure, I think, that by the end of next winter — not this winter, next winter — I think that there’ll be enough people looking for it that … somebody’s actually going to track this down,”
Brown said during a news conference Wednesday (Oct. 19) at a joint meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) and the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) in Pasadena, California. Brown said that eight to 10 groups are currently looking for the planet.
Researchers say an anomaly in the orbits of distant Kuiper Belt objects points to the existence of an unknown planet orbiting the sun.
At the “next one of these [DPS-EPSC meetings], we’ll be talking about finding Planet Nine instead of just looking for it,” added Brown, who’s based at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena.
That would be a pretty quick path from hypothetical planet to confirmed world. The existence of Planet Nine was seriously proposed for the first time just in 2014, by astronomers Scott Sheppard and Chadwick Trujillo, of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., and the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii, respectively.
Sheppard and Trujillo noted that the dwarf planet Sedna, the new found object 2012 VP113 and several other bodies far beyond Pluto share certain odd orbital characteristics, a coincidence that would make sense if their paths through space had been shaped by an unseen, giant “perturber” in the region.
The researchers suggested that this putative planet is perhaps two to 15 times more massive than Earth and lies hundreds of astronomical units (AU) from the sun.
(One AU is the Earth-sun distance, about 93 million miles, or 150 million kilometers.)
This interpretation was bolstered in January of this year by Brown and fellow Caltech astronomer Konstantin Batygin, who found evidence of a perturber’s influence in the orbits of a handful of additional distant objects. This “Planet Nine,” as Batygin and Brown dubbed the putative world, likely contains about 10 Earth masses and orbits on a highly elliptical path whose aphelion (farthest distance from the sun) is about 1,000 AU, the researchers said. (For perspective, Pluto gets just 49.3 AU from the sun at aphelion.)
The evidence for Planet Nine’s existence has continued to grow over the past nine months, as several different research teams have determined that the orbits of other small, distant objects appear to have been sculpted as well.
One team, led by Renu Malhotra of the University of Arizona, discussed four such objects at the DPS/EPSC meeting Wednesday. And Brown’s team, led by Elizabeth Bailey of Caltech, announced at the meeting on Tuesday (Oct. 18) that Planet Nine appears to have tilted the orbits of all eight “official” planets by 6 degrees relative to the sun.
The ongoing Planet Nine research also includes efforts to pin down where the world might be in the sky these days.
— Nerti U. Qatja (@nertiqatja) March 19, 2016
This is a key part of the discovery effort, since a blind search for an object so far away, and with such a huge and elliptical orbit, has little chance of success in the near term, Brown has said.
It’s likely that Planet Nine is currently at or near aphelion, located perhaps 1,000 AU from the sun, in a patch of sky measuring about 400 square degrees, Brown said. (For comparison, the full moon viewed from Earth covers about 0.5 degrees of sky.)
Astronomers have said Planet Nine is perhaps four times wider than Earth, and such an object would be easily visible with professional-grade equipment if it were relatively close to Earth, Brown explained. In addition, planets on highly elliptical orbits spend most of their time near aphelion, since they’re traveling most slowly on this part of their path, he said.
URGENT:Planet X Visible Every Day of 2016 So Far Only Using Naked Eyes | Voice Of People https://t.co/OvUWOdrglT
— Voice Of People (@VOP_Today) February 23, 2016
An object four times bigger than Earth that’s located at 1,000 AU would have a magnitude of about +25 on astronomers’ brightness scale, Brown added.
“This is well within reach of the giant telescopes,”
“The Subaru telescope, I think, on Mauna Kea, [in Hawaii] — the Japanese national telescope — is the prime instrument for doing the search. But there are a lot of other people who have clever ideas on how to find it, too, that are trying with their own telescopes.”
So which research team will ultimately find Planet Nine? Brown said he isn’t sure, and he stressed that getting credit for the historic discovery should be a secondary concern for astronomers.
“There are a lot of people looking, and we are trying as hard as we can to tell people where to look,”
“We want it to be found.”