But that still doesn’t mean we’ll be seeing the planet anytime soon.
This can be read in a new study which has not yet been peer reviewed, but can already be viewed online. In the study, scientists who presented the first clues to the existence of Planet X years ago say the evidence for the mysterious planet’s existence is still strong. And they determine more precisely where this planet is located.
How it started
Several years ago, astronomers Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin made a remarkable discovery. They encountered six Kuiper Belt objects, all of which have elliptical orbits and follow the same direction in physical space. Weird coincidence? Almost impossible, argued Brown. “The probability that this is a coincidence is only 0.007%. In short, it can hardly be a coincidence. There must be something that determines the course of these items. But then what? The researchers looked at various scenarios and came to a dramatic conclusion. Somewhere on the edge of the solar system, it is said that a great planet hitherto unknown resides.
The mysterious planet was soon called Planet X. Countless media wrote about it and people all over the world marveled that such a large object could be hidden from us in our own solar system. “Honestly, I never thought our calculations would capture the imagination of the general public so much,” Batygin said. Scientias.nl.
Scientists were also caught up in Brown and Batygin’s calculations. And while some have concluded that there must indeed be a ninth planet hidden in our solar system, others have questioned the clustering of Kuiper Belt objects put forward as evidence by Brown and Batygin. This regrouping would not be the result of a mysterious planet, but of a so-called observer bias. “It’s actually a very simple concept,” says Batygin. “In fact, the idea is that you can only discover celestial bodies in places where you seek them. So if you have a study that only looks at part of the universe, it can lead to the discovery of a population of objects that appear to be clustered together.
In a new study however, Brown and Batygin firmly undermine this bias seen by observers. “We simulated the combined observer bias of all studies in which objects distant from the Kuiper belt were discovered and found that the probability that clustering (which was observed by Brown and Batygin and seems to indicate the presence of a ninth planet) or a false alarm is between 0.2 and 0.4%. ”Thus, the evidence for the existence of planet X is still strong.
But Brown and Batygin go further in their new study. They use the observations of the Kuiper Belt objects mentioned above to more precisely determine the properties and orbit of planet X. So, based on all this data, the mass of the planet is determined to be about 6 , 2 land masses. Additionally, there are indications that Planet X is venturing closer than previously thought. When the planet (in its elliptical orbit) is furthest from the sun, the distance between the sun and planet X is 380 AU (1 AU is the distance between the Earth and the sun). And when the planet is closest to the sun, it is about 300 AU from our mother star. The orbit’s tilt angle – or the angle it makes with respect to the Earth’s orbital plane – is estimated to be 16 degrees.
And so, based on the available data, we have a much more accurate picture of the possible orbit of Planet X. Mike Brown jokes that the research results in a “treasure map.” But that doesn’t mean the treasure – Planet X – is up for grabs. First of all, the researchers present not one orbit, but several orbits, one of which is slightly more plausible than the other. “So there is a wide range of possible orbits and even the least plausible orbits can by no means be ruled out,” Batygin warns. Additionally, each orbit is essentially a chain of possible locations and we have no idea where the planet is at this time. So while it can certainly be good news that Planet X is probably closer than expected and that we now also have a slightly better defined search area, it is not clear that we will also find the planet anytime soon. .
Vera C. Rubin Observatory
And yet, Batygin has high hopes that Planet X will be found in the next few years. For example, based on what we now know about the alleged planet, it could be detected by the ongoing construction Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile. The observatory should see the light of day next year.
Science at its best
It’s almost certain that Brown and Batygin’s research will be revisited by other scientists in the meantime. Because it’s science at its best, says Batygin. “And that’s what makes it so fun!” ”
In the midst of all the calculations and discussions, while waiting for the actual detection of Planet X, there is of course always the possibility that the planet does not exist. It would no doubt be a shock to Brown and Batygin, but somehow the conclusion that Planet X is a mirage could be quite exciting as well. “If planet X does not exist, the number of open questions on the far reaches of our solar system is suddenly increasing,” Batygin said. “And that in itself is very interesting. Because remember, the clustering of the orbits of the objects in the Kuiper belt is only a clue to the existence of planet X. If planet X is not there, what causes the perihelion displacement of objects distant from the Kuiper belt? What is the source of the Retrograde Centaurs? Without Planet X, all of these questions remain unanswered. So in that sense, it would be both disappointing and exciting if Planet X turned out not to exist. “
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