The ninth planet is a theoretical, unexplored giant planet on the fringes of the Solar System, whose presence explains both the tilt of the Sun’s rotation axis and the clusters of small, icy asteroids beyond Neptune’s orbit. But does the Ninth Planet really exist?
Mathematical calculations and computer simulations have shown that the orbits of objects in the Kuiper Belt could only have formed if Neptune formed a few astronomical units closer to the Sun, and then migrated to the outer limits of the Solar System, where it is today.
The Neptune migration explains the prevalence of highly elliptical orbits of objects in the Kuiper Belt, with the exception of a few that are at least ten astronomical units away from the orbit of Neptune.
It was these extreme orbits that proved the existence of the Ninth Planet. In two independent studies, astronomers calculated that only a very large and very distant planet could support these orbits. Then the theory of the Ninth Planet appeared.
Its mass should exceed the mass of the Earth by five or ten times, and the range of its orbit is from 300 to 700 astronomical units (one astronomical unit is equal to 149,597,870,700 meters-roughly 149.6 million kilometers). Trying to find the planet, scientists made many predictions about where to look for it. But no one has discovered it yet. After more than four years of searching, there is only circumstantial evidence for the existence of the Ninth Planet.
According to the laws of physics, objects in elliptical orbits are most of the time removed from the Sun at very significant distances, which makes them difficult to detect. Astronomers only see them when the objects are near the pericenter — the closest point to the Sun in their orbit. Observations are also hampered by the weather conditions on Earth and the abundance of stars near the plane of the Milky Way galaxy, against which the ice wanderers are not so easy to spot.
All extreme orbits were discovered as a result of studies that did not fully reflect their deviation. So we don’t know if all the orbits are in the same quadrant of the Solar System, and no studies have been done in the other quadrants.
The scientists conducted additional simulations, which showed that if observations were made only during one season and from one telescope, then extreme orbits would naturally be detected only in one quadrant of the Solar System.
Next, the scientists examined in detail the orbits of all known extreme objects and found that all but two of them are explained by known physical laws.
The simulations showed that there must be objects in the Kuiper Belt with orbits different from those formed by the Ninth Planet.
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