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

Planet Nine

'Planet 9' might really be a gang of asteroids shooting comets at us

What does their collective gravity do?"she said".

Evidence has been piling up for the existence of a ninth planet in our solar system, but no one has directly observed this supposedly super-Earth-sized body yet-instead, we've only seen its unusual effects on the orbits of comets, asteroids, and other TNOs (Trans-Neptunian Objects).

Scientists doubted the existence of Planet X. the Experts believe that beyond the orbit of Neptune celestial bodies the planet's gravity is not affected. However, we have discovered a phenomenon, driven by differential precession between TNOs of different masses and mutual secular gravitational torques, that naturally detach massive minor planets.

Speaking at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society, Jacob Fleisig of the University of Colorado at Boulder presented a tantalizing new bit of research.

Sedna's eccentric orbit has been cited as evidence that another, larger planet's gravity must be nudging it off-kilter somewhere along its path, and the mysterious Planet Nine is usually assumed to be responsible. According to astrophysicist Ann-Marie Madigan and colleagues, the sheer number of objects out there in the Kuiper belt could account for the orbital weirdness. According to NASA, that planet would have to be substantial, with a mass 10 times that of Earth, orbiting the sun every 10,000 to 20,000 years, circling 20 times farther out than Neptune. The Planet Nine, precisely. Using the simulations, they had calculated that the orbits of icy objects beyond Neptune circle the sun like the hands of a clock.

If this is the answer to the TNO puzzle, why hasn't anyone else noticed? Something, it seemed, had "detached" them from the gravitational clutches of Neptune. In this study, Madigan says they added in the mass of 400 of the 2,300 documented objects. But that was enough to send the most massive objects into weird orbits.

As Fleisig explains, this causes the smaller objects to amass together and generate a sufficient amount of collective gravity to impact the course of the bigger objects. For example, there's still "clustering in pomega", which Madigan described as the odd fact that the orbits of the detached objects all tilt the same way.

"Planet Nine explains this really well, and we do not", admits Madigan.

Scientists at the University of Colorado in boulder came to the conclusion that the trajectories of the detached TRANS-Neptunian objects can be explained by the asteroid collision, and not the gravitational influence of a hypothetical ninth planet. But no one is quite sure how the planets ended up so far out in space. Usually, the larger an object is, the easier it is to discover.

These findings are supported by a 2012 study, which revealed that bigger "detached objects" tend to wander farther away from the sun, notes CU Boulder.

"If there are only 10 out there, and we detected 10, it's bizarrely lucky", she said.

Remarkably, these relatively insignificant objects may also be culpable in the extinction of the dinosaurs. What could cause a cyclical rain of death from above? Fleisig said the team's model creates periodic comet showers for the rocky planets, including Earth.

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