This artistic rendering shows the distant view from Planet Nine back towards the sun. The planet is thought to be gaseous, but smaller than Uranus and Neptune. Hypothetical lightning lights up the night side. Image credit: Caltech / R. Hurt (IPAC).
“Finding out that something you have just discovered is considered all but impossible is one of the joys of science.” -Mike Brown
In January of last year, astronomers Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown shocked the world by proposing that there was a world larger than Earth located some five-to-ten times as distant as Neptune. That this world — known as Planet Nine — was causing the ultra-distant Kuiper belt objects we’d discovered so far to all have predicable, peculiar properties. And the observations matched up really well.
The 3D orbits of the Kuiper belt objects influenced by Planet Nine. As Mike Brown said, ‘The distant objects with orbits perpendicular to the solar system were predicted by the Planet Nine hypothesis. And then found 5 minutes later.’ Image credit: Mike Brown / http://www.findplanetnine.com/.
But in science, post-dictions aren’t enough. You need to make new predictions for objects you can then go out and measure, and see how they line up. In the case of Planet Nine, there are four pieces of indirect evidence that can be measured, and one piece of direct evidence that will settle the issue once and for all: actually locating Planet Nine.
The constellation of Taurus is one of the leading candidate locations for the hypothesized Planet Nine. The bright star Aldebaran and the Hyades star cluster are the most easily identifiable objects to the naked eye in Taurus. Image credit: Akira Fujii.
The indirect evidence looks good, and we’re fast approaching the best season for hunting Planet Nine. Come get the status update today!