A possible new planet could occupy the former rank of Pluto in the Solar System. Scientists believe that the so-called Planet 9 may be part of the set of celestial bodies under the domain of our star, due to the gravitational effects it would exert on the distribution and orbit of other distant objects.
The potential ice giant candidate must have a mass equivalent to five times the mass of the Earth, located about 10 times the distance between Neptune and the Sun.
The hypothesis about the existence of a new planet is based on a gravitational anomaly in the outer solar system — the target of a study in 2016. Astronomers point out that this force may be responsible for “pulling” small icy bodies in the region of the Kuiper asteroid belt , situated beyond the orbit of Neptune and close to the orbit of Pluto.
Illustration of Planet 9Source: NASA/Reproduction
A new study, conducted by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), highlighted that the unusual phenomenon has a 0.4% chance of happening without the need for a giant, which raises suspicions that it is not a coincidence. Rather than these objects exhibiting a patterned and independent movement, it was revealed that they form an atypical grouping of the same orientation — the result of being attracted to a nearby body with significant mass.
The study was published in pre-print format (not yet reviewed by other scientists) in August.
Although Planet 9’s existence has yet to be proven, experts believe that new orbit calculations should deliver a verdict soon. In this context, the scientific doubt may also gain an answer through data provided by future space missions and telescopes, including the Vera Rubin Observatory — scheduled to begin operations in 2022.
ARTICLE “The orbit of Planet Nine”; available at ArXiv.org.