“Honk if you love Pluto,” is one of the many signs displayed at the seventh annual “Dwarf Planet Pride Day” held in Seattle, Washington to protest the dismal of beloved Pluto. Although it does not seem likely that Pluto will be reinstated as a planet, there is still hope for many that believe that there are nine planets in our solar system with the recent discovery of “Planet Nine."
Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have discovered evidence that point to an object with a mass ten times that of the Earth, and orbits twenty times farther from the sun. According to Cal Tech, “It would take this new planet between 10,000 and 20,000 years to make just one full orbit around the sun.” This marks the first significant planetary discovery since Neptune in 1846, and Cal Tech researchers are confident that this object, which is five thousand times the mass of Pluto, is large enough to rule out any question on if it is a true planet or not.
The discovery of this object more complicated than just looking through a telescope, and screaming “Eureka!” Researchers Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin haven’t actually seen the object, but they noticed an anomaly in the Kuiper Belt, the field of ice and debris beyond Neptune. They saw that this debris had unusual orbits that all pointed in the same direction as if it was being pulled by gravity. Using mathematical modeling and simulations, Brown and Batygin came to the conclusion that a planet with the demographics of “Planet Nine” was exerting the gravity essential to shape the debris.
Despite the planets “bizarre, highly elongated orbit,” depending on where it is in its ten thousand year journey, many telescopes will possess the ability to find it. Although Brown would love to find the beloved object that he helped discover, he is even more excited about inspiring global researchers to try and find it themselves while it wonders in the endless abyss.