The Mysterious Planet Nine at the edge of our solar system

(Mohammad Nosherwan Malik, Lahore)

The orbits of several objects beyond Neptune and the possible orbit of Planet Nine (Credit: MagentaGreen/Wikimedia Commons)

Scientists have long suspected the existence of a ninth planet in our solar system (No we’re not talking about Pluto. We know it’s not a planet, although we would be happy if that were the case.) The planet in question is a hypothetical planet that resides in the outer region of our solar system. It is suspected to be about five to ten times the mass of the Earth and the reason why astronomers strongly believe it exists is that its presence explains the erratic orbits some distant objects beyond Neptune have. The idea of such a planet was first seriously proposed back in 2014, and the evidence for its existence has only gotten stronger since.

The concept of a mysterious planet lurking somewhere deep in our solar system is not new. The planet has assumed several forms over the years, the most notorious of which is the planet Nibiru, a celestial body which, according to many prophesies, is destined to collide with the Earth and cause apocalyptic destruction somewhere in the future. However, the existence of the planet which is the subject of this report, commonly referred to as planet nine by scientists, is grounded in science and this planet will fortunately not be colliding with the Earth anytime in the future.

In a paper published in the Astronomical Journal in January, physicists from the California Institute of Technology, one of the leading research universities in the United States, calculated the probability of planet nine not existing at about 0.2 per cent, making the case for the existence of planet nine stronger than it has ever been. According to Mike Brown, one of the co-authors of the paper, the analysis, although not directly hinting at the existence of Planet nine, “does indicate that the hypothesis rests upon a solid foundation.” Spotting such a planet, however, is no easy task since the planet is located a long way from the Sun and is difficult to detect using reflected light from the Sun. Scientists such as Fred Adams of the University of Michigan, however, believe that the planet will become detectable within the next nine to fourteen years.


“Over the course of the next 10 years we will have deeper and deeper, which means more sensitive, sky surveys,” he said, “So I think by 2030 we will have seen it or will have a better idea of where it is. Of course, it’s also possible that by then we could also have alternate explanations for the observed orbital anomalies.”

Alternative explanations range from humanity’s incomplete picture of the distant objects in the solar system to the combined gravitational effect of a number of smaller trans-Neptunian Objects. Planet Nine, however, remains the most popular explanation among astronomers. One day, hopefully, we will be able to spot such a planet if it actually exists. Will this new member of the Solar System Family, however, be able to take away the love in our hearts that we have for the dwarf planet Pluto? Probably not.







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