Planet 9, Welcome to the Neighborhood!

Planet Nine Credit: Caltech/R. Hurt

Planet Nine
Credit: Caltech/R. Hurt

First there was the Ed Wood classic, Plan 9 From Outer Space. Now, a fascinating bit of astronomical detective work from researchers at Caltech may have come up with the best evidence yet that somewhere well beyond the Kuiper Belt, our solar system harbors a massive, as yet undiscovered world they have dubbed “Planet Nine.”

“The object, which the researchers have nicknamed Planet Nine, has a mass about 10 times that of Earth and orbits about 20 times farther from the sun on average than does Neptune (which orbits the sun at an average distance of 2.8 billion miles). In fact, it would take this new planet between 10,000 and 20,000 years to make just one full orbit around the sun.”

The full press release, which details the rather convincing gravitational analysis of several Kuiper Belt Objects which almost demands that another, undiscovered body is influencing them, is here.

For traditionalists who still hope to re-install Pluto as a proper planet, the name may simply be adding insult to injury, but regardless of what you call it, actual confirmation of such a world would be yet another reminder of just how we have yet to learn about our own solar system and the ever more interesting menagerie of worlds waiting to be explored.

Posted in: Outer Planets

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3 Comments on "Planet 9, Welcome to the Neighborhood!"

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  1. “rather convincing gravitational analysis of several Kuiper Belt” — I think you need to add “objects” there.

  2. So what do we do about the naming problem? I suggest calling this new one Pluto and renaming the Kuiper Belt Object Formerly Known as Pluto as … well, what? “Goofy” would be my preferences, but maybe “Minnie” would be better. Then some people could split the difference by saying “Minnie Pluto” which sounds like “mini-Pluto”, which … oh, OK, I’ll shut up now.

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