Planet Nine could be a ‘rogue world’ captured from another solar system

It has captured the imagination of astronomers and science fiction fans – and could turn out to be a real rogue world.

Dubbed Planet Nine, the elusive world is believed by many to be responsible for the oddly shaped orbits of objects in the outer realms of the solar system, but that remains to be seen.

Now, a new theory claims it could be even weirder than expected.

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Astronomers believe a ninth undiscovered planet in the outer reaches of the solar system could be discovered within the next 16 months. Planet Nine is thought to be responsible for the strange orbital paths of icy minor planets beyond Neptune (stock image used)

Researchers at New Mexico State University (NMSU) say it could have been a “rogue planet” and could have been captured by our solar system.

“It’s very plausible” that Planet Nine is a captured rogue, a world that cruises through space without being tethered to a star, said New Mexico State University undergraduate student James Vesper ( NMSU), during a press conference during the 229th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Grapevine, Texas.

WHAT IS PLANET NINE?

Astronomers believe that the orbits of a number of bodies in distant regions of the solar system have been disturbed by the pull of an as yet unidentified planet.

First proposed by a group at CalTech in the US, this alien world has been theorized to explain the distorted paths seen in distant icy bodies.

In order to fit the data they have, this alien world – popularly called Planet Nine – would have to be around four times the size of Earth and ten times its mass.

Some of the most distant known objects in the Solar System with orbits exclusively beyond Neptune (magenta) all align in one direction.  They believe that such an orbital alignment can only be maintained by an outside force, potentially an invisible ninth planet the size of Neptune.

Some of the most distant known objects in the Solar System with orbits exclusively beyond Neptune (magenta) all align in one direction. They believe that such an orbital alignment can only be maintained by an outside force, potentially an invisible ninth planet the size of Neptune.

Researchers say a body of this size and mass would explain the clustered paths of a number of icy minor planets beyond Neptune.

Its enormous orbit would mean that it would take between 10,000 and 20,000 years to make a single pass around the sun.

The theoretical Planet Nine is based on the gravitational pull it exerts on these bodies, with astronomers confident it will be found in years to come.

Those hoping for theoretical Earth-sized planets proposed by astrologers or science fiction writers – which “hide behind the sun” and are tied to Doomsday scenarios – may have to keep looking.

Vesper and his mentor, Paul Mason, professor of mathematics and physical sciences at NMSU, ran simulations of 156 encounters between our solar system and rogue planets of varying sizes and trajectories, according to Space.com.

“Rogue or free-floating planets can be abundant in the Galaxy,” he wrote in a paper accompanying the talk.

“Several have been observed in the solar neighborhood.

“They have been predicted to even greatly exceed the number of stars and may partly explain the dark matter in the disk of the galaxy, as a result of the formation of circumbinary planets.

“We assume that if rogue planets are abundant as expected, then Planet 9 could be a captured rogue.”

The simulations revealed that in about 60% of encounters, the incoming rogue planet would be knocked out of the solar system.

In about 10% of all cases, the thief would take at least one of our solar system’s native planets with them when they left, he added.

Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso in a scene from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso in a scene from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.’ The Star Wars Rogue One spin-off has captured the imaginations of stargazers and sci-fi fans alike – and now stargazers are saying Planet 9 could be a REAL rogue world.

However, in about 40% of encounters, the thief would end up being captured by the solar system.

This could happen via a “soft capture,” in which no native planets are ejected, or the invader could start one or more worlds upon arrival, Vesper said; it would depend on the characteristics of the thief.

The simulations also suggest that our solar system has probably never had an encounter with a rogue world more massive than Neptune, Vesper added.

Astronomers could discover the mysterious ninth planet in the solar system by 2019, scientists have claimed.

But with up to 10 search parties scouring the sky, astronomers believe it won’t stay hidden for long and could be discovered within the next 16 months.

The claims were made by astronomer Mike Brown, one of those who proposed the existence of the mysterious world, at a conference in the United States this week.

The distant worlds are thought to be around four times the size of Earth and ten times the mass, with its gravitational pull pulling small bodies farther into its huge elliptical orbit (stock image)

The distant worlds are thought to be around four times the size of Earth and ten times the mass, with its gravitational pull pulling small bodies farther into its huge elliptical orbit (stock image)

“I’m pretty sure, I think, that by the end of next winter – not this winter, next winter – I think there will be enough people looking for him that … someone one is actually going to find it,” the professor said. Brown, speaking at a meeting of the Division of Planetary Sciences (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society in Pasadena.

The mystery world was first proposed by Professor Brown’s team to explain the long elliptical orbit of icy objects in the extension beyond the Kuiper Belt past Pluto – whose planetary status has been partly killed by Professor Brown’s team at the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) in Pasadena.

But with a number of research groups dedicated to finding evidence of the planet, and some of the most advanced telescopes in the world could help locate it in the night sky, potentially before the next DPS conference.

The discovery would mark “a pretty quick turnaround” from a hypothetical planet to a confirmed planet, says Space.com’s Mike Wall, who reported the claims.

A growing number of distant icy rocks have been discovered beyond Neptune – the last known official planet in the solar system – including Eris, which was discovered by the CalTech team and dealt a fatal blow to Pluto’s planetary status , due to its larger size.

Among these trans-Neptunian ice worlds are a growing number like Sedna and L91, whose distorted orbits push them away from the sun, taking thousands of years to make a single pass.

But as more and more of these objects have been discovered, their elongated trajectories indicate a strong gravitational pull from a large object beyond Neptune – the theoretical Planet Nine.

Professor Brown and the Caltech team have proposed that to exert such a gravitational pull on these minor planets, Planet Nine would be around four times the size of Earth, ten times the mass and would take between 10,000 and 20,000 years to orbit. the sun .

According to Space.com, one of the reasons it hasn’t been spotted yet is that it’s currently at its farthest point from the sun on its epic planetary path, called its aphelion.

This could mean that Planet Nine is currently 1,000 astronomical units (AU) from the sun – 1 AU being the distance from Earth to the sun.

But tools like the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii and instruments at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan could be up to the task.

Professor Brown told reporters: ‘There are a lot of people watching, and we’re trying our best to tell people where to look. We want it to be found.

WHAT IS SHOOTING AT L91?

L91 is one of a growing number of icy worlds with bizarre orbits discovered beyond Neptune

L91 is one of a growing number of icy worlds with bizarre orbits discovered beyond Neptune

At the same conference this week, the researchers discussed their findings at L91, one of many icy worlds with strange orbits discovered on the outskirts of the solar system.

Some astronomers have suggested that the orbits could be explained by an invisible Neptune-sized planet beyond Pluto slowly dragging them into darkness.

A team observing L91 suggests it may have started out with a regular orbit, with little difference between its closest and farthest points from the sun.

But for billions of years it was nudged slightly by Neptune until its orbit took it into the Oort cloud.

The gravitational pull of a passing star, or the constant pull of the Milky Way itself, may then have returned the orbit to a more elliptical shape seen today.

But others think a simpler explanation is the gravitational pull of a still unknown new planet.

Arline J. Mercier