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Astronomers find more clues about Planet Nine (Planet X?)

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The mystery surrounding an undiscovered planet of the Solar System continues to unfold with astronomers claiming that they have found more evidence that could point at the existence of Planet Nine (Planet X?).

According to a team of researchers from California Institute of Technology’s (Caltech), the unusual tilt of the Sun could be attributed to this massive, undiscovered planet that is lurking at the edge of our Solar System. While there have been no direct observations of Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown of Caltech claim that there indeed is a planet that is massive and is orbiting the Sun in a greater tilted orbit compared to the other planets.

Elizabeth Bailey and others reveal in their new study that they have uncovered more evidence that this massive Planet Nine may be the reason behind a wobble to the solar system, giving the appearance that the sun is tilted slightly. Bailey explains that while all the other planets of our Solar System orbit in a flat plane with respect to the sun, roughly within a couple degrees of each other, the plane rotates at a six-degree tilt with respect to the sun —giving the appearance that the sun itself is cocked off at an angle.

Batygin and Brown predict a planet 10 times more massive than Earth and at a distance roughly 20 times farther from the sun on average than Neptune’s and this planet effectively changes the physics. Planet Nine (Planet X?), based on their calculations, appears to orbit at about 30 degrees off from the other planets’ orbital plane — in the process, influencing the orbit of a large population of objects in the Kuiper Belt, which is how Brown and Batygin came to suspect a planet existed there in the first place.

According to the researchers’ calculations, such a hypothetical planet would complete one orbit around the Sun roughly every 17,000 years and, at its farthest point from our central star, it would swing out more than 660 astronomical units, with one AU being the average distance between the Earth and the Sun.

“Every time we look carefully, we continue to find that Planet Nine explains something about the solar system that had long been a mystery,” added Batygin, assistant professor of planetary science.

The findings bolster previous work by other scientists that showed that six of those bodies travel on highly eccentric orbits whose long axes all point in the same direction. This clustering of orbital parameters of the most distant KBOs suggested a large, planetary size body shepherding their orbits.

How did Planet Nine achieve its unusual orbit?

Though that remains to be determined, Batygin suggests that the planet may have been ejected from the neighbourhood of the gas giants by Jupiter, or perhaps may have been influenced by the gravitational pull of other stellar bodies in the solar system’s extreme past. The findings have been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal.