By Kevin Roeten:
Is Planet X a planet, and where did it come from?
Several months ago, Konstanin Batygin assistant professor of planetary science, and Mike Brown, Professor of Planetary Astronomy, announced they found evidence of a giant planet making a highly elongated orbit within the outer solar system. From mathematical modeling and computer simulations, they determined there was a huge planet taking an elongated path around our sun.
This planet, if finally sighted, would bring the total number of planets orbiting ‘Old Sol’ back to nine. Pluto became relegated from an actual planet when Brown killed off Pluto a decade ago for lack of Planetoid characteristics. From its mass to its orbit, there are many things Caltech astronomers have determined about Planet Nine. Its existence is inferred from its gravitational effects on solar system heavenly bodies.
They’ve made a size estimate just by gravitational effects on existing orbits of these heavenly bodies. Planet Nine has already been estimated to be 10 times earth’s mass, making it as large as Neptune. Its inferred orbit is 20 times farther out than Neptune. Planet Nine orbits the sun just once in 10,000-20,000 years. Likely, humans might have seen Planet Nine in the 1500s.
Planet Nine gravitationally dominates a larger region of the solar system than all known planets. Planet Nine likely formed in the region of Uranus and Neptune. It was probably ejected to the outer edge of the solar system by a very close encounter with Jupiter. It’s also possible Planet Nine is a rogue planet. It even could have been ejected from a different planetary system. Astronomers worldwide have already begun searching for Planet Nine. Brown and Batygin believe Planet Nine will be found in less than five years.
According to NASA imagery, a large object, similar to a brown dwarf, is moving toward earth at a high rate of speed from behind the sun. This object has been researched by Intellihub for over 25 years after being discovered during the Reagan Administration. Since its discovery in 1982, Planet Xwas acknowledged by NASA, and in 1983, the IRAS [Infrared Astronomical Satellite] detected a large object in deep space, and JPL continued the search “NASA said it discovered an unbelievably huge, massive, slowly burning star, headed right toward our solar system from the region of Orion,” per Dr. Jaysen Rand, author of Return of Planet X. And recently, the Vatican’s LUCIFER Telescope has picked up the incoming object.
Researcher Zecharia Sitchin, stated Planet X flies in a highly elliptical orbit, approaching earth on an angular plain, then sling-shoting around the backside of the sun before exiting back out of our solar system every 3600 years. Per Wikipedia: According to Sitchin, an undiscovered planet beyond Neptune is following a long, elliptical orbit, reaching the inner solar system roughly every several thousand years. Co-incidentally, scientists, top scholars, and universities, along with other peer-reviewed studies, realize the moon, sun and earth are not in their proper positions in our solar system.
“All I can tell you is that we don’t know what it is,” Dr. Gerry Neugebauer, IRAS chief scientist for California’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and director of the Palomar Observatory, said in an interview.
It’s been documented by astronomers the orbital patterns and tilt of the moon have changed. Per a peer-reviewed paper by Lorenzo Lorio, filed at Cornell: recent analysis of a Lunar Laser Ranging [LLR] data record spanning 38.7 yr revealed an anomalous increase of the eccentricity of the lunar orbit amounting to de/dt_meas = (9 +/- 3) 10^-12 yr^-1. The present-day models of the dissipative phenomena occurring in the interiors of both the Earth and the Moon are not able to explain it. Some even say Planet X is likely a Dyson sphere.
Recently, two scientists announced evidence a body the size of Neptune, orbits the sun every ~15,000 years. Slowed down by gas, the planet settled into a distant elliptical orbit,. But, Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown of the California Institute say the planet could have been transformed into a fully inhabitable Dyson Sphere. Although such megastructures may be theoretically possible, all plans to build a fixed-in-place Dyson Sphere are currently far beyond humanity’s engineering capacity.
Batygin and Brown
These astrophysicists prepared for the inevitable skepticism with detailed analyses of the orbits of other distant objects and months of computer simulations. “If you say, ‘We have evidence for Planet X,’ almost any astronomer will say, “Why is this different? This is different because this time we’re right.”
Outside scientists say calculations could express excitement about the result. “I could not imagine a bigger deal if—and of course that’s a boldface ‘if’—it turns out right,” says Gregory Laughlin, a planetary scientist at the University of California [UC]. “What’s thrilling about it is [the planet] is detectable.”
Batygin and Brown inferred its presence from the peculiar clustering of six previously known objects orbiting beyond Neptune. They say there’s only a 0.007% chance the clustering is a coincidence. In this case, a planet has forced six objects into their strange elliptical orbits. The orbit of the inferred planet is similarly tilted. Its closest approach to the sun is 7 times farther than Neptune, or 200 astronomical units [AUs]. Planet X could roam as far as 600-1200 AU. This is well beyond the Kuiper belt, starting at Neptune’s edge at about 30 AU. But Brown knows no one will believe, until Planet X is within a telescope viewfinder. “Until there’s a direct detection, it’s a hypothesis—even a potentially very good hypothesis,” he says. The team has time on the one large telescope in Hawaii suited for the search, and they hope other astronomers will join in the hunt.
Batygin and Brown published the result in The Astronomical Journal. Alessandro Morbidelli, a planetary dynamicist at the Nice Observatory, says Batygin and Brown made a “very solid argument” and that he is “quite convinced by the existence of a distant planet.” He inferred existence of Planet X from its ghostly gravitational effects. In 1846, the French mathematician Urbain Le Verrier predicted the existence of a giant planet from irregularities in the orbit of Uranus. Astronomers at the Berlin Observatory found Neptune in its expected location.
Strange perturbances in Uranus’s orbit led scientists to believe another planet existed, and in 1906 Percival Lowell began searching for “Planet X”. In the 1990s, scientists invoked a Jupiter-sized planet at the solar system’s edge to explain the origin of certain oddball comets. Recently, researchers claimed to have detected the faint microwave glow of an outsized rocky planet some 300 AU away, using an array of telescope dishes in Chile called the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA).
Brown was stunned about his current quarry in 2003, when he led a team who found Sedna, both a bit smaller than Eris and Pluto. Sedna’s odd, far-flung orbit made it the most distant known object in the solar system. Its closest point to the sun, lay at 76 AU. But Sedna was beyond the Kuiper belt, and far outside the influence of Neptune’s gravity. The implication was clear: Something massive, well beyond Neptune, must have pulled Sedna into its distant orbit.
Sedna’s gravitational nudge could have come from a passing star. Since then, a handful of other icy objects have turned up in similar orbits. By combining Sedna with five other bodies, Brown says he has ruled out stars as the unseen influence: Only a planet could explain such strange orbits. Of his three major discoveries, Eris, Sedna, and [maybe] Planet X, which seems to be the most sensational. They began to examine the orbits of the two objects along with 10 others. They noticed at perihelion, all came very near the plane of solar system, called the ecliptic. In a paper, Sheppardand Trujillo showed the peculiar clumping, and raised the possibility a distant huge planet had gathered these objects near the ecliptic.
For the next year, the duo secretly discussed what the pattern was. Batygin, a 29-year-old whiz kid computer modeler. But he made his mark there by modeling the fate of the solar system over billions of years.
Brown, 50, is the observational astronomer. He has a program all set to sift for Planet X in data from a major telescope ASAP. First, they checked the dozen objects studied by Sheppard and Trujillo to the six most distant—discovered by six different surveys on six different telescopes. That made it less likely the clumping might be due to an observation bias. Batygin began seeding his solar system models with Planet X’s of various sizes and orbits, and determine which version best explained the objects’ paths. A favored size for Planet X emerged between five-fifteen earth masses as well as a preferred orbit, aligned in space, so its perihelion is in the same direction as the six objects’ aphelion. The orbits of the six cross Planet X’s. The final epiphany was when Batygin’s simulations showed Planet X should also sculpt the orbits of objects swooping nearly orthogonal to the ecliptic.
Brown says. “I had seen these objects before.” It turns out since 2002, five of these highly inclined Kuiper belt objects have been discovered, with origins largely unexplained. “Not only are they there, but they are in exactly the places we predicted,” Brown says. “That is when I realized that this is not just an interesting and good idea—this is actually real.” Others, like planetary scientist Dave Jewitt, discovering the Kuiper belt, are more cautious. The 0.007% chance the gathering of the six objects gives the planet claim a statistical significance of 3.8 sigma.
One other potential problem comes from NASA’s Widefield Infrared Survey Explorer [WISE], a satellite completing an all-sky survey looking for the heat of brown dwarfs. It ruled out the existence of a Saturn-or-larger planet as far out as 10,000 AU, according to a 2013 study by Kevin Luhman, an astronomer at Pennsylvania State University. But Luhman notes if Planet X is Neptune-sized or smaller, WISE would have missed it. He says there is a slim chance of detection in another WISE data set at longer wavelengths which was collected for 20% of the sky.
Even if Batygin and Brown can convince other astronomers Planet X exists, they have to explain how it ended up so far from the sun. Planet X did become considered a planetesimal. Computer models have shown the early solar system was highly tumultuous billiards table, with planetary buildingblocks the size of Earth.
It’s strange Planet X didn’t leave the solar system. But Batygin says residual gas in the protoplanetary disk might have exerted enough drag to slow the planet for orbit. Hal Levison, a planetary dynamicist, agrees something has to be creating the alignment Batygin and Brown have detected. But he says Planet X gives researchers more positivity. The proposed scenario is plausible, Laughlin says. “Usually things like this are wrong, but I’m really excited about this one,” he says. “It’s better than a coin flip.” All this means Planet X will remain unknown until found.
Astronomers know where to look, but nothing yet. Planet X spends very little time at 200 AU. The planet would be so bright, astronomers probably would have already spotted it. But Planet X is likely at aphelion, slowly traversing distances between 600-1200 AU.
One telescope, the Subaru, is an 8-meter in Hawaii. It has enough light-gathering area to detect a faint object 75 times larger than a Keck telescope. That allows astronomers to scan large swaths of the sky each night. Batygin and Brown are using Subaru to look for Planet X. Brown says it will take around 5 years to search most of the area where Planet X is hiding.
It must also be remembered Planet Nine never was in a Habitable Zone. The [CHZ] in astronomy is where the Circumstellar Habitable Zone is theEarth‘s position in the Solar System and the radiant energy it receives from the Sun. The [CHZ] is based on Earth’s biosphere, the nature of the objects within may be instrumental in determining the scope of Earth-like extraterrestrial life and intelligence.
Planet Nine takes 10,000-20,000 years to make just one full orbit around the sun, at a distance of 2.8 billion miles. Brown says, “There have only been two true planets discovered since ancient times, and this would be a third. It’s a pretty substantial chunk of our solar system…still out there to be found, which is pretty exciting.” There should be no debate about being a true planet.
Planet Nine gravitationally dominates a region larger than any of the other known planets. Batygin and Brown describe their work in the Astronomical Journal, and show Planet Nine which explains the Kuiper Belt. “Although we were initially quite skeptical…this planet could exist, as we continued to investigate its orbit and what it would mean for the outer solar system, we become increasingly convinced…it is out there,” says Batygin. “For the first time in over 150 years, there is solid evidence…the solar system’s planetary census is incomplete.”
The researchers approached their work from very different perspectives. Brown looks at the sky and tries to anchor everything in the context of what can be seen, and Batygin who puts himself within the context of dynamics, considering how things might work from a physics standpoint. “I would bring in some of these observational aspects; he would come back with arguments from theory, and we would push each other. I don’t think the discovery would have happened without that back and forth,” says Brown. “It was perhaps the most fun year of working on a problem in the solar system… I’ve ever had.”
Batygin and Brown realized the six most distant objects all follow elliptical orbits pointing in the same direction in physical space. Strangely, the outermost of their orbits travel at different rates. “It’s almost like having six hands on a clock all moving at different rates, and when you happen to look up, they’re all in exactly the same place,” says Brown. “The odds of that happening are…1 in 100,” he says. “Also, the orbits of the six objects are also tilted in the same way, pointing 30 degrees downward in the same direction relative to the plane of the eight known planets. The probability of that, is only 0.007 percent. “Basically it shouldn’t happen randomly,” Brown says. “So we thought something else must be shaping these orbits.”
With Kuiper Belt objects, many have not yet been discovered. The objects exerted the gravity needed to keep the subpopulation held together. Their first instinct was to run simulations involving a planet in a distant orbit encircling the orbits of the six Kuiper Belt objects. But when Batygin and Brown noticed a massive planet in an anti-aligned orbit, the distant Kuiper Belt objects assumed the alignment actually observed.
“Your natural response is ‘This orbital geometry can’t be right. This can’t be stable over the long term because, after all, this would cause the planet and these objects to meet and eventually collide,'” says Batygin. But through the mechanism of mean-motion resonance, the anti-aligned orbit of the ninth planet actually prevents the Kuiper Belt objects from colliding with it and keeps them aligned. So for every four orbits Planet Nine makes a distant Kuiper Belt object might complete nine orbits. They never collide. Instead, Planet Nine pushes orbits of distant Kuiper Belt objects where their placement with relation to the planet is retained.
“Still, I was very skeptical,” says Batygin. “I had never seen anything like this in celestial mechanics. A good theory should not only explain things…you set out to explain, it should hopefully explain things…you didn’t set out to explain and make testable predictions.” Indeed, Planet Nine’s existence helps explain more than just the alignment of the distant Kuiper Belt objects. It also explains the mysterious orbits two of them trace. The first of those objects was Sedna discovered by Brown. There is also a second object known as 2012 VP113. Batygin and Brown found the presence of Planet Nine in its proposed orbit naturally produces Sedna-like objects by taking a standard Kuiper Belt object and pulling it away.
But the real kicker for researchers was their simulations predicted there would be objects in the Kuiper Belt on orbits inclined perpendicularly to the plane of the planets. In the last three years, observers have identified four objects tracing orbits roughly along one perpendicular line from Neptune and one object along another. “We plotted up the positions of those objects and their orbits, and they matched the simulations exactly,” says Brown.“When we found that, my jaw sort of hit the floor.”
“When the simulation aligned the distant Kuiper Belt objects and created objects like Sedna, we thought this is kind of awesome…” says Batygin. Where did Planet Nine come from and how did it end up in the outer solar system? Scientists have long believed the early solar system began with four planetary cores to grab all of the gas around them, forming the four gas planets—Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Over time, collisions and ejections shaped them and moved them out to their present locations. “But there is no reason that there could not have been five cores, rather than four,” says Brown.
Batygin and Brown continue to refine their simulations and learn more about the planet’s orbit. Meanwhile, Brown has begun searching the skies for Planet Nine. Only the planet’s rough orbit is known, not the precise location of the planet on that elliptical path. If the planet happens to be close to its perihelion, Brown says, astronomers should be able to spot it in images captured by previous surveys. If it is in the most distant part of its orbit, the world’s largest telescopes will be needed. If Planet Nine is now located anywhere in between, many telescopes may find it.
“We hope that other people are going to get inspired and start searching.” Batygin says, “First, most of the planets around other sun-like stars have no single orbital range. Some orbit extremely close to their host stars, while others follow exceptionally distant orbits. Second, the most common planets around other stars range between 1-10 earth-masses. One of the most startling discoveries about other planetary systems has been the most common type of planet has a mass between earth and Neptune,” says Batygin. “Until now, we’ve thought…the solar system was lacking in this most common type of planet.” Brown, known for the demotion of Pluto to a dwarf planet continues, “All those people who are mad that Pluto is no longer a planet can be thrilled to know…there is a real planet out there still to be found.”
One thing must be kept in mind about the discovery and location of Planet Nine. It is more than ice cold, possibly approaching absolute zero in Celsius degrees. It is out in space where there is no heat at all. And if its been orbiting our sun for 10-20,000 years at a time, it must be a truly inhospitable place. NASA has it’s IRAS telescope having already spotted a planet in 1983. Surely, something will-pop in the next 5 years. Over fifty 50 scientists have confirmed a hidden planet is likely to be found. A quick on-the- board estimate, gives a 58.2 percent chance of spotting a planet in that time frame.
Kevin Roeten can be reached at roetenks@CHARTER.NET.
© Copyright by Kevin Roeten, 2017. All rights reserved.