Planet Nine

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    In News 

    • Recently, two astronomers at the California Institute of Technology in the United States, have plotted the probability distribution function of the orbit of Planet Nine. 

    Background

    • In August 2006, the International Astronomical Union announced that it had reclassified Pluto as a dwarf planet. 
      • The decision was based on Pluto’s size and the fact that it resides within a zone of other similarly-sized objects. Currently, there are five dwarf planets: Ceres, Pluto, Eris, Makemake and Haumea.
    • Scientists have continued their search for new planets and in 2016 Konstantin Batygin and Michael E. Brown, both from the California Institute of Technology, published a paper in The Astronomical Journal, stating that they had evidence for a distant giant planet and nicknamed it Planet Nine. 
    • The new research provides evidence of a giant planet tracing an unusual, elongated orbit in the outer solar system. 
      • The prediction is based on detailed mathematical modelling and computer simulations, not direct observation.
    • Another study published in 2018 in The Astronomical Journal, on the other hand, cited fresh evidence for the existence of Planet Nine. 
    • It noted that a trans-Neptunian object called 2015 BP519 had an unusual trajectory because it was affected by Planet Nine’s strong gravity.

    About Planet Nine

    • Caltech researchers have found mathematical evidence suggesting there may be a “Planet X” deep in the solar system.
    •  This hypothetical Neptune-sized planet orbits the Sun in a highly elongated orbit far beyond Pluto. 
    • The predicted orbit is about 20 times farther from the Sun on average than Neptune (which orbits the Sun at an average distance of 2.8 billion miles). It could have a mass about 10 times that of Earth
    • It would take this new planet between 10,000 and 20,000 years to make just one full orbit around the Sun (where Neptune completes an orbit roughly every 165 years).

    Present Status 

    • Planet X has not yet been discovered, and there is debate in the scientific community about whether it exists. The prediction in the Jan. 2020  issue of the Astronomical Journal is based on mathematical modelling.
    • The announcement does not mean there is a new planet in our solar system. 
      • The existence of this distant world is only theoretical at this point and no direct observation of the object nicknamed “Planet 9” have been made. 
    • Astronomers will begin using the world’s most powerful telescopes to search for the object in its predicted orbit. 
    • Any object that is far away from the Sun will be very faint and hard to detect, but astronomers calculate that it should be possible to see it using existing telescopes.
    • The team is continuing their studies and the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, currently under construction in Chile, will further help the hunt for Planet Nine. 
      • The observatory will scan the skies night after night and eventually uncover many things, including Planet Nine,”

    Source: IE