May 22, 2024

Searching for “Planet 9” – the research team publishes new data

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He presses

Until now no one has been able to see the alleged “Planet Nine”. (Artist's impression) © Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)

The mysterious “Planet 9” in our solar system has not yet been found, but a research team can now report success after all.

PASADENA — When it comes to searching for previously unknown planets, astronomy often uses what's called the “transit” method. The light from the star is observed over a longer period of time. If a planet passes in front of the star, the star's light remains slightly shaded for a short time — an indicator of the presence of a planet that researchers can then investigate further. This method works well for exoplanets, that is, planets orbiting stars outside our solar system, where more than 5,500 exoplanets have been discovered so far, many of which were detected through their transits.

But in the solar system, it is difficult to detect planets using this method. After all, only two planets pass in front of our sun from an Earthly perspective: Venus and Mercury. Planet Nine, which has been searched for in our solar system for several years, is supposed to move outside the orbit of Neptune. From Earth's perspective, it can never be seen in front of the Sun. That's why researchers searching for the mysterious “Planet 9” have only one thing left to do: they have to infer the properties of “Planet 9” based on the movements of other celestial bodies.

On a search for the mysterious “Planet 9”.

Over time, some of the characteristics that researchers attributed to “Planet 9” came together without ever seeing them. For example, the unidentified planet is said to have a mass of about 6.6 times the mass of Earth. Researchers have also long worked to determine its likely orbit. The only problem is that the region in the solar system where Planet 9 could be is huge, distant, and dark. So, it is not easy to search for the planet that many researchers assume exists.

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In a new study, a research team has now taken data from the PanSTARRS telescope and looked at the planet. Michael Brown (California Institute of Technology) and his fellow researchers didn't find anything, but they can now rule out nearly 80% of possible locations where “Planet 9” could exist. “We dramatically reduced the search area,” Brown explains. Reverse The universe today.

The team wrote in its study that areas of the sky that have not yet been examined will be largely covered by the Vera Rubin Observatory. That would It has been published on the ArXiv preprint server It is a specialized magazine Astronomical magazine Accepted for publication. The observatory is a giant reflecting telescope currently being built in Chile.

“Planet 9” will be the fifth largest planet in the solar system

Researcher Brown is known as the person who discovered the dwarf planet Eris with a team in 2005. This discovery ensured the definition of the new “dwarf planet” category, at which point Pluto was demoted from planet to dwarf planet. Brown has been trying to find “Planet 9” for many years.

“This will be the fifth largest planet in our solar system and the only one with a mass between Earth and Uranus,” Brown explains why he is searching for the unprecedented planet. “Such planets are common around other stars, and we will suddenly have the opportunity to study one of them in our solar system.”

“Planet 9” explains a lot of what happens in the outer solar system

Another reason to search for the planet was its implications for the outer solar system, which were clear to Brown: “'Planet 9' explains many things about the orbits of objects in the outer solar system that would otherwise be inexplicable and would each require its own properties.” Our own interpretations,” Brown asserts, meaning, among other things, highly inclined and retrograde orbits for objects in the outer solar system. “None of these should happen in the solar system, but they can easily be explained as a ‘Planet Nine’ effect.”

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Of course, it is possible that “Planet 9” never existed at all, the research team wrote in the study, but again pointed out that other explanations for phenomena in the outer solar system would then be needed. “As long as such explanations are not available, we continue to consider Planet 9 as the most likely hypothesis,” the research group says in its work. (unpaid bill)