Researchers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have managed to delimit the orbital path of Planet Nine: this will allow to reduce the search area of the enigmatic astro. Planet Nine would have approximately 6.2 Earth masses and would be located on the border of the Solar System, beyond Neptune.
Where specifically would Planet Nine be within that orbital path? It has not yet been specifically determined, but scientists believe that the area farthest from the Sun is the region in which the star would move more slowly and, therefore, would spend the most time. According to experts, this area should focus the next efforts of astronomers to finally discover the exact location of Planet Nine .
According to an article published in EarthSky, the American researchers analyzed a set of observations of all known Kuiper belt objects whose orbits would be affected by Planet Nine. From this information they were able to determine the orbital path of the unknown astro, in the framework of a new study that will soon be published in the Astronomical Journal and that is already available on arXiv.
THE GRAVITATIONAL PULL OF A HIDDEN PLANET?
The Kuiper belt is a circumstellar disk located in the outer Solar System, extending from the orbit of Neptune to approximately 50 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun. Each AU is roughly equal to the mean distance between the Earth and the Sun.
The objects located in the Kuiper Belt are frozen bodies that have remained there since the formation of the Solar System, in an extensive orbit beyond Neptune . Pluto, for example, is a Kuiper belt object. As many of these objects have eccentric orbits, scientists believe that they are influenced by a distant and enormous star, which would be precisely Planet Nine.
A gravitational attraction coming from a star in principle “invisible” is the way in which Neptune was discovered: in 1846, John Couch Adams and Urbain Le Verrier appreciated that Uranus was influenced by an unknown body and that it could not be seen, that it was finally Neptune. Is Planet Nine another example of this planetary interaction mechanism supported by the effect of gravity?
HOW TO IDENTIFY A GRAIN OF SAND ON A HUGE BEACH
Planet Nine becomes brighter and more visible as its orbit gets closer to Earth, according to scientists who postulate its existence. Despite this, the specialists remarked that it is more difficult to find it than to see it.
In other words, they compared it to a grain of sand: individually it is not so complex to visualize it, but when it is lost on a beach, its identification is almost impossible. In the same way, Planet Nine would be seen for moments, to later lose itself and hide in the vastness of the cosmos.
After comparing the data obtained on Planet Nine with the location of each object present in the Kuiper Belt, the researchers also sought to avoid observation biases , that is, areas that have received too much attention to the detriment of others. Precisely these biases had been one of the main criticisms made around the original study of 2016, in which they maintain the existence of Planet Nine.
Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown proposed in 2016 the existence of Planet Nine from mathematical models and computer simulations. According to the researchers, the star would take between 10,000 and 20,000 years to make a complete revolution around the Sun and has 5,000 times the mass of Pluto, therefore there would be no discussions about its classification as a planet, if its existence is confirmed.
From now on, the search for the gigantic star could be easier, having the frame of reference that the identification of an orbital path supposes. Has the time finally come to discover the precise location of Planet Nine and confirm its existence once and for all?