Mystery of ‘Planet Nine’ at the edge of our solar system deepens

Co-author Ann-Marie Madigan of the University of Colorado Boulder said, 'There are so many of these bodies out there. It would also have to be about ten times more massive than Earth, have a diameter ranging from two to four times that of Earth, and an orbital period of 15,000 years to account for the effects on TNOs.

Some TNOs are "detached objects", which orbit so far from the sun that they're not appreciably affected by the gravity of Neptune or any other known planet.

The basic argument for Planet 9 is that the similarly unusual (or unusually similar) orbits of this (relatively) massive group of objects implies they've been acted upon by a still-larger object. Some researchers believe that the existence of these bodies may be evidence in favor of the hypothesis about the ninth planet of the Solar system, whose gravity makes TRANS-Neptunian objects detached. I'm talking about the maybe-kinda-sorta hidden planet that might-kinda-maybe be lurking at the very distant edge of our solar system.

The problem is, despite several years of searching, Planet 9 has not appeared.

The researchers presented their findings today at a press briefing at the 232nd meeting of the American Astronomical Society, which runs from June 3-7 in Denver. Somewhat smaller than Pluto but still large enough to be rounded by its own gravity, Sedna, which is located 8 billion miles from the Sun, takes 11,000 years to complete one solar orbit.

But instead, undergraduate astrophysics student Jacob Fleisig helped Dr Madigan envision all the different bodies outside the solar system chaotically crashing into one another. Caltech's Konstantin Batygin, for one, does not think the Kuiper Belt objects have enough mass to pull minor planets and asteroid out of their orbit.

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The mysterious dwarf planet Sedna, discovered in 2003. Using the simulations, they had calculated that the orbits of icy objects beyond Neptune circle the sun like the hands of a clock.

"You see a pileup of the orbits of smaller objects to one side of the Sun", he said. "This cycle could wind up shooting comets toward the inner solar system-including in the direction of Earth-on a predictable timescale".

These bumper car-like interactions can explain numerous anomalies out there, without needing to invent a huge Planet Nine. "These orbits crash into the bigger body, and what happens is those interactions will change its orbit from an oval shape to a more circular shape". The team's observations also fall in line with research from 2012, which observed that the bigger a detached object gets, the farther away its orbit becomes from the sun.

A new theory put forward by scientists can both explain this odd behaviour of dwarf planets as well as possibly explain the fate of dinosaurs, notes the report. "While we're not able to say that this pattern killed the dinosaurs, it's tantalizing", says Fleisig.

According to the team, the dinosaur-killing asteroid that hammered our planet 65 million years ago, wiping out almost 75 percent of life on Earth, could have been sent on its collision path by the periodic comet showers that turned up in Fleisig's computer model.

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