Caltech Scientists Find Evidence Of A Massive Ninth Planet In Our Solar System

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Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin (Photo Credit: Caltech.edu)

When Pluto was demoted to dwarf status in 2006, we were left with a mere eight planets in our solar system. Now Planetary Astronomy Professor Mike Brown, the researcher responsible for 'killing' Pluto may have redeemed himself with the discovery of a massive ninth planet - One he believes is worthy of being added to the elite group of eight.

The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) researcher and his colleague Konstantin Batygin think that Planet 9, which is lurking at the edge of our solar system, is about three times larger than Earth. It revolves around the sun in a highly elliptical orbit. Computer simulations suggest that even at its closest the planet is 200 - 300 times farther that Earth gets to the star. At its farthest, the gaseous giant is a distance of between 600 - 1,200 times that of Earth. It is no wonder that it takes the celestial body over 20,000 Earth years to complete a single orbit!

Photo Credit: Caltech.edu

But before you start celebrating and adding the new planet to your solar system chart and song, keep in mind that the existence of Planet 9 has only been confirmed by computer simulations - No human has ever seen it. In fact, Brown and Batygin are not even sure of its exact location. They hope now that astronomers know about its possible existence, they will be able to find it with the help of sophisticated telescopes.

The researchers say their suspicion that there could be another planet lurking further out in our solar system came in 2013, shortly after they discovered dwarf planet Sedna, in the Kuiper belt, an area that lies just beyond Neptune's orbit. Brown says that while observing Sedna, they noticed it had an odd orbit, almost like it was being affected by the gravitational pull of a larger planet.

Photo Credit: Caltech/R.Hurt (IPAC)

Since the scientists knew Neptune was not causing the gravitational pull, it raised the possibility of the existence of another planet. The researchers say they knew they were on to something when they found other small objects in the area displaying similar orbit patterns. It seemed as though all were clustering around one central object.

To verify their suspicion, Brown and Batygin inserted a simulated planet between the objects. Sure enough, after some tweaking with the mass and orbit, they were able to conclude that a planet, ten times the mass of Earth on an egg-shaped orbit could be responsible for the odd orbit patterns of the smaller celestial bodies.

Photo Credit: Caltech/R.Hurt (IPAC)

This, of course, is not the first time that researchers have claimed to have discovered a new planet in our solar system. But the Caltech scientists who published their research in the Astronomical Journal on January 20, believe Planet 9 is for real. The fact that Scott Sheppard, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution of Science in Washington, D.C. noticed similar orbit patterns when observing the objects in the Kuiper Belt, gives their theory some credibility. But until someone can see and capture Planet 9 on camera, Brown and Batygin's discovery will be regarded as what it is — just another intelligent computer simulation.

Resources: nbc.com, gizmag.com,space.com, caltech.edu.

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clusteringcolleaguecredibilitydemotedeliteellipticalgaseousgravitationalkuiper beltlurkingneptuneredeemedsimulationssophisticatedtweaking
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Reading Comprehension (3 questions)

  1. Who found planet nine?
  2. Where is it located?
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Critical Thinking Challenge

What should this new planet be called? Why?

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Vocabulary in Context

“One he believes is worthy of being added to the elite group of eight.”

In the above sentence, the word elite most likely means:

(a)  the choice or best of anything...

1110 Comments
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  • Timmy the catFriday, January 12, 2018 at 1:04 pm
    thanks to agree that pluto is the ninth planet viper16x and that he will always be a planet and will have his spot back for every one one day again. So every one else show some love for pluto!😺
    • Timmy the catFriday, January 12, 2018 at 12:52 pm
      i know viper16x you feel bad for plto to like me but at least we have a new member in the sollar system or should i say we have found a member of the sollar syestem but I'm still calling it tenth for are sollar system forgotten planet pluto, but we did not fprget him pluto lovers like I pluto well get back one day and stay that way. whew that was a long sentence but still it is for pluto. PLUTO WILL ALWAYS BE A PLANET FOR ME!!!!!!!!🙀
      • gymnast Friday, January 12, 2018 at 10:43 am
        awsome
        • viper16x
          viper16xThursday, January 11, 2018 at 4:40 pm
          ohh this is bad for pluto the 9th planet is the 10 planet but this is still awesome so lol cooooooool!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
          • Timmy the catWednesday, January 10, 2018 at 8:44 am
            I"m sorry Pluto but i guess you were replaced but your still a planet for me. So even tho he is the ninth planet i'm still gonna call him the 10th.
            • viper16x
              viper16xThursday, January 11, 2018 at 4:38 pm
              poor pluto
            • space brainy Wednesday, December 6, 2017 at 7:43 am
              LOVE! IT!
              • Space nerd Friday, December 1, 2017 at 8:26 am
                Thanks this may have not given me the info that I wanted but I learned something new
                • cosmologist377
                  cosmologist377Friday, December 1, 2017 at 1:51 am
                  Cosmic! Some Cosmologists believe that it might have the conditions for life to evolve on the planet and recently telescopes were sent and it was announced in websites that water is said to have existing on the extraterrestrial surfaces. A name called 'Phatty' was thought to name the planet. But in my opinion, Planet 9's orbit is directly away from the orbits of our current 8 planets, so Planet 9 couldn't be a dwarf planet as it is a massive size of 10 times of the earth. ==> Like if you agree :-)
                  • mister meFriday, October 27, 2017 at 11:12 am
                    they will probably name it after a greek good
                    • NataliaFriday, October 27, 2017 at 9:52 am
                      Cool you should name it Caltech.

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