Scientists may have unwittingly spotted Planet 9 in our solar system

Whether it exists or not, Planet Nine continues to lurk in the proverbial shadow. Now the scientific community has a new line of investigation into the elusive space object.

That’s because astronomers may have unknowingly observed Planet Nine as early as 1983, a report by Scientific alert revealed.

An Imperial College London astronomer, Michael Rowan-Robinson, has analyzed data from Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) observations taken in 1983 and he argues they may contain evidence of the elusive Planet Nine.

In search of the elusive Planet Nine

Planet Nine is currently only a hypothesis, extrapolated in 2016 from the observation of an anomalous gravitational force in the Kuiper Belt on the outskirts of our solar system. The elusive object may not actually exist, or it may, in fact, be a tiny black hole, according to a recent theory.

In Rowan-Robinson’s new paper, which appears in a pre-print server and has yet to be peer-reviewed, the astronomer says images taken by IRAS in 1983 could directly show Planet Nine, although he himself acknowledges that this is far from a sure thing. In his paper he says that “given the poor quality of the IRAS detections, bordering on the survey, and in a part of the sky that is very difficult for far-infrared detections, the likelihood that the candidate is real is not overwhelming.”

However, he also specifies that “given the great interest of the Planet Nine hypothesis, it would be interesting to verify whether an object with the proposed parameters and in the proposed region of the sky, is incompatible with the planet [movements].”

Planet Michael Rowan-Robinson?

The original 2016 paper that pointed to evidence for a potential planet nine suggested that the hypothetical planet could be up to ten times the mass of Earth and has avoided detection because it is the height of 10 times the distance of Neptune from the sun and therefore receives very little sunlight. However, extensive investigation has so far failed to uncover direct evidence of the cosmic object, leading in part to the black hole theory.

In his paper, Rowan-Robinson offers a new line of investigation: based on IRAS observations from 1983, he identified three key sources, each detected roughly a month apart. The three separate sightings suggest a single transient object, Rowan-Robinson says. The astronomer proposes to analyze the infrared and optical data at these three points. This may be a proverbial, literal massive shot in the dark, but if the new line of investigation somehow provides direct evidence of a planet nine, let’s just hope they don’t call it actually the planet Michael.

Arline J. Mercier