Does a ninth planet exist in our solar system after Pluto, the dward planet we just recently successfully flew past
and snapped pictures of with NASA's New Horizons spacecraft?
Scientists now believe they’ve found a planet out there that takes anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 Earth years to orbit the Sun just one time. The planet, which at this time is being called “Planet Nine,” is an icy world that is approximately 10 times heavier than that of Earth and is 20 times further from the Sun than Neptune is.
Although the planet hasn’t yet been imaged or seen, researchers Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown estimate the planet is out there somewhere based on mathematical modeling and computer simulations.
Scientists had long thought that there must have been something out there giving Pluto and several other dwarf planets such a strange orbit around the Sun, and this new larger planet is probably the missing key to that phenomenon.
There are six dwarf planets known to have a very odd elliptical orbit around the Sun that are tilted about 30º away from that of other planets in our solar system, and this isn’t something that we can expect to see naturally without some other kind of force acting upon them.
"Although we were initially quite skeptical that this planet could exist, as we continued to investigate its orbit and what it would mean for the outer solar system, we become increasingly convinced that it is out there," says Batygin, an assistant professor of planetary science. "For the first time in over 150 years, there is solid evidence that the solar system's planetary census is incomplete."
If these findings are true, then this would be the first time since ancient times that a new planetary body has been discovered. Unlike Pluto and the other dwarf planets in our solar system, Planet Nine is actually expected to be large enough to fill the shoes of a full-blown planet.