For years, scientists have believed in the existence of a Planet X or a Planet Nine beyond Pluto. Here is the truth.
Until about the 18th century, we only knew of the existence of six planets in our solar system. Anything beyond Saturn was too far to see with the naked eye or with a basic telescope. Uranus was discovered later in 1781 and later in 1846 Neptune was also found. But there was a quirk in Neptune’s discovery. Unlike other planets, it was not discovered by observation. Instead, scientists reasoned that Neptune must exist based on mathematical calculations of its predicted position due to observed disturbances in the orbit of the planet Uranus. And today, the same calculations point to the existence of a 9th planet, well beyond the orbit of Pluto. So what is this planet X and what do we know about it? Does it even exist or is the math wrong?
The mysterious Planet X
The reason many scientists thought Planet X or Planet Nine must exist is due to similar disturbances when observing Neptune or Pluto. Indeed, this mysterious planet X would have disturbed the orbits of other planets. To put it simply, planets in space should ideally have a fairly circular orbit around a star. But due to other planets, their orbits lengthen as the planet is pulled by the strong gravitational forces between them.
From Earth, when observing a planet with an elongated trajectory, it would fade and then brighten again, suggesting that it is not moving in a perfect circle around the Sun. Of course, the Earth itself moves, and that’s where a complex set of mathematical equations come in to better understand the planet’s orbital path. And that’s what led researchers to believe in the existence of another planet beyond Neptune.
According to a NASA blog post, “Caltech researchers have found mathematical evidence to suggest that there may be a ‘Planet X’ deep within the Solar System. This hypothetical Neptune-sized planet orbits our Sun in a very elongated orbit well beyond Pluto. The object, which researchers have dubbed “Planet Nine”, could have a mass about 10 times that of Earth.
NASA also explains that the prediction is based on detailed mathematical modeling and computer simulations, not direct observation. However, the reason for believing in its existence is simple. “This large object could explain the unique orbits of at least five smaller objects discovered in the distant Kuiper Belt,” the post explains.
In its FAQ, NASA explains: “Over the past decade, a number of bodies have been discovered beyond the orbit of Pluto. In fact, one of them is even bigger than Pluto”. But then is it “Planet X”?
NASA says Caltech scientists believe Planet X could be around 10 times the mass of Earth and similar in size to Uranus or Neptune. The predicted orbit is about 20 times farther from our Sun on average than Neptune (which orbits the Sun at an average distance of 2.8 billion miles). It would take this new planet between 10,000 and 20,000 years to complete a single full orbit around the Sun (where Neptune completes an orbit approximately every 165 years).
Well, the truth is no, so far there isn’t. NASA said: “However, it is now known that the orbits of Uranus and Neptune can be adjusted to data accuracy if done correctly. Thus, Planet X is not needed.”
Additionally, neither the celestial object nor Pluto are close enough or massive enough to significantly affect the orbits of Uranus or Neptune.
That said, humanity is still on a journey of discovery and nothing is set in stone. Jim Green, Director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, said: “It is too early to say for sure that there is a so-called Planet X. What we are seeing is an early prediction based on modeling at from limited observations. It’s the start of a process that could lead to an exciting outcome. »
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