Planet Nine could be a rogue planet that has been captured by our solar system
Scientists are still trying to pinpoint the exact location of the elusive planet nine – the hypothetical ninth planet in our solar system that was proposed by scientists in January of last year.
But while they are at it, new research has offered an explanation for how this huge and mysterious world could have come into orbit around our Sun: It was once a free-floating nomad, before being snapped up by our Sun. System by the gravitational attraction of the Sun.
According to the simulations, Planet Nine could be what is called a rogue planet – a free-roaming planetary body that is not tied to any particular star.
Or at least he was one at the time, before wandering through our solar system at one point and being captured by the Sun’s gravitational pull.
That’s what two researchers at New Mexico State University suggest, after running 156 simulations of what could happen if orphan planets of different sizes were to roam our local corner of the galaxy.
Most of the time, tests have shown that these nomads would not get stuck in our solar system, with the incoming planets most often being ejected by gravitational forces in a sort of slingshot effect.
“[R]ogue in, rogue out, ”lead researcher James Vesper told Space.com’s Mike Wall.
These ejections represented about 60% of the malicious encounter simulations. In at least 10 percent of those cases, the initially wanderer would take one of the solar system’s existing planets with it, due to the slingshot’s gravitational pull.
But in 40 percent of the simulations, the rogue planet was indeed drawn into the solar system for good.
This could take place with a “soft capture” – where no existing planet is expelled by the new arrival – or via a more violent insertion, with one, two or more planets expelled by the invader.
The results were presented last week at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Grapevine, Texas, and although the new paper has yet to be officially peer reviewed, it has received high praise from Konstantin Batygin. – one of Caltech’s planetary scientists whose 2016 research gave birth to the Planet Nine hypothesis.
“It is certainly plausible that Planet Nine is [a] captured object, ”Batygin told Rae Paoletta at Gizmodo.
“Without knowing the precise orbit, it’s difficult to confirm or decisively refute the capture of rogue like the Planet Nine origin story, but it is certainly possible.”
One of the factors that helps support the rogue planet’s explanation is the sheer number of these wandering worlds that are believed to be there.
Scientists believe there could be billions of these orphans roaming the entire Milky Way, overtaking both stars and star-linked exoplanets in our galaxy.
But there is also another possibility.
Last year, a separate team made the argument that planet nine may have originally been an exoplanet from another solar system captured by our Sun billions of years ago.
In this analysis, Planet Nine was not a thug, but rather a star-bound exoplanet that ended up defecting to our Sun due to gravitational forces beyond its control.
Of course, all of these speculative explanations remain very speculative for now, but with every new research and understanding we put together, it feels like we’re getting closer to what could be one of the most exciting scientific discoveries on our planet. solar system ever. But first we have to find it.
“I’m quite sure Planet Nine is really out there,” Batygin told Gizmodo.
“The number of seemingly unrelated puzzles within the solar system that are solved by the existence of Planet Nine is simply too large to be a coincidence.”