Could there really be a Neptune-sized Planet Nine discovered in the outer solar system ?
The case for a hidden gas giant in the outer solar system continues to go from strength to strength.
Believed to be up to ten times the mass of the Earth and with an orbital period of up to 20,000 years, this enigmatic world has been the subject of intense debate ever since researchers at the California Institute of Technology first revealed that its existence might actually be a very real possibility.
Back in January, planetary scientists Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin created a mathematical model indicating that a Neptune-sized object in the outer solar system could be influencing the movements of six smaller Kuiper Belt objects which appeared to be behaving rather oddly.
“We saw a strange signal in the data that meant something odd was going on in the outer Solar System,” said Brown. “All of these distant objects were lined up in a weird way and that shouldn’t happen. We worked through the mundane explanations, but none of them worked out.”
Now following further observations using the Canada France Hawaii Telescope, the researchers have revealed that a seventh object has been found which also conforms to their new model.
The discovery adds further weight to the idea that Planet Nine really is out there and that it will only be a matter of time before astronomers are able to observe it directly.
If they do it will be one of the biggest astronomical discoveries ever made.