Does a hidden planet really lurk in the outer reaches of the solar system ?
The idea that there could be a previously undiscovered world located far out beyond the orbit of Pluto has been the subject of heated debate among astronomers for years.
Recently researchers from Sweden and Mexico submitted two new papers claiming the alleged discovery of not one, but two new planets in the outer solar system. The release followed on from a similar discovery earlier this year of two ‘trans-Neptunian objects’ by scientists in Madrid.
Both of the objects, one having appeared in the sky near to the star W Aquilae and the other adjacent to Alpha Centauri, were picked up by the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA).
Despite indications that these could be two new planets within our solar system however the response to the findings by other astronomers has been one of considerable skepticism.
Right now it’s difficult to completely rule out the possibility that the objects aren’t, for example, nearby asteroids or even a pair of brown dwarf stars located in nearby interstellar space.
It’s also possible that the findings are due to nothing more than random blips of noise.
California Institute of Technology astronomer Mike Brown certainly has his doubts.
“If it is true that ALMA accidentally discovered a massive outer solar system object in its tiny, tiny, tiny, field of view, that would suggest that there are something like 200,000 Earth-sized planets in the outer solar system,” he said. “Which, um, no.”
Despite his skepticism however Brown does admit that “the idea that there might be large planets lurking in the outer solar system is perfectly plausible.”