It has been three years since researchers from Caltech proposed our solar system is missing a Super Earth, orbiting our sun at mammoth distances of up to 800 astronomical units.
“Our new efforts, both theoretical and numerical, suggest that in the original paper we over-estimated the parameters of Planet Nine,” Konstantin Batygin from Caltech explained.
Since the existence of the hypothetical planet has been announced, astronomers around the world searched the outermost edges of our solar system for the mysterious alien world.
Until now, we have only found but small pieced of the puzzle that hint at its existence.
“Although this analysis does not say anything directly about whether Planet Nine is there, it does indicate that the hypothesis rests upon a solid foundation,” said Michael Brown, a professor of planetary astronomy at Caltech, in a press release.
Now, two brand-new studies have been released presenting new evidence that the planet is real, and claims that the elusive world will officially be found in the next decade or so.
The new scientific paper present new details about planet nine. According to one paper, the enigmatic ‘super-Earth’ is located at between 400 and 600 astronomical units (AU) away from Earth and is as much as five times the mass of our planet.
Also dubbed Planet X, Giant Planet Five or Planet Next, astronomers suspect this mystery world exists although we’ve still not been able to observe it directly.
But the ‘idea’ that Planet X really exists comes from various calculations of its gravitational influence on other objects located beyond the orbit of Neptune.
Some of these objects, dubbed ‘trans-Neptunian objects’ are located beyond the furthest gas giant and in within the so-called Kuiper Belt.
In the past few years, astronomers have been able to identify wobbles in the orbits of the solar system’s most distant objects and infer that this is due to the presence of a massive, yet undiscovered planet.
The first paper concerning planet nine has been published in the Astronomical Journal. Scientists found the chances of the existence of planet nine at one in 500.
The second paper, published in Physics Reports, takes a look at the size of the elusive world.
According to experts, the planet is most likely located much closer to the sun and is probably between 400 to six hundred astronomical units from Earth. One AU equals the distance between the Earth and the sun.
The size of Planet X is also thought to be much smaller than previous estimates.
“At five Earth masses, Planet Nine is likely to be very reminiscent of a typical extrasolar Super-Earth,” says Batygin.
“It is the solar system’s missing link of planet formation. Over the last decade, surveys of extrasolar planets have revealed that similar-sized planets are very common around other sun-like stars. Planet Nine is going to be the closest thing we will find to a window into the properties of a typical planet of our galaxy.”
“The prospect of one day seeing real images of Planet Nine is absolutely electrifying,” Batygin explained.
“Although finding Planet Nine astronomically is a great challenge, I’m very optimistic that we will image it within the next decade,” Batygin concluded.