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'Planet Nine' Exists Yet Remains A Bit Of A Mystery, New Study Says

First Posted: May 05, 2016 05:50 AM EDT
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Earlier this year scientists have discovered the existence of Planet Nine, which is the hypothetical "Planet X" before. It is a Neptune-sized planet that orbits around the sun in a highly elongated orbit far away from Pluto. On the other hand, academics are mystified on how this planet could end up in such a distant orbit.

Science Daily reports that the new study was led by astronomers from Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). It was printed in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. The researchers examined few scenarios and found out that most of them have low probabilities. With this, the visibility of Planet Nine remains a mystery.

Gongjie Li, the lead author of the study and the CfA astronomer said that the evidence points to Planet Nine existing but they cannot explain for certain how it was produced.

The Planet Nine orbits the sun at a distance of about 40 billion to 140 billion miles or its equivalent to 400-1500 astronomical units. An astronomical unit is the average distance of the Earth from the Sun or that is about 93 million miles. This makes the Planet Nine far beyond all other planets in the solar system. The researchers have been comprehending it if the Planet Nine formed there or did it form somewhere else and land in its strange orbit later.

LI and Fred Adams, the co-author of the study performed millions of computer simulations to come up with three possibilities. The first includes a passing star that pulls the Planet Nine outward. They consider other two possibilities that Planet is a free-floating planet that was taken when it is wandered by the solar system or an exoplanet that was captured from a passing star system. On the other hand, they concluded that the chances of each scenario are less than 2 percent.

Scott Kenyon, CfA astronomer and his co-author Benjamin Bromley utilized computer simulations to build reasonable scenarios for the formation of the Planet Nine in the wide orbit. They insinuated that Planet Nine formed much closer to the sun and interrelated with the other gas giants, specifically Saturn and Jupiter. Then, a series of gravitational kicks could have heightened the Planet Nine into more elliptical orbit over time.

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