As of now we are all aware of eight planets that orbit our mighty Sun. But wait! Do we have a ninth planet too that was mysteriously hidden until now?
As per the new mathematical evidences by Caltech researchers, there can be a possibility of planet nine deep in the solar system. This hypothetical planet that is named 'Planet Nine', is a Neptune sized planet and is estimated to have a mass of about 10 times that of Earth. It orbits our sun in an highly elongated orbit far beyond Pluto and takes somewhere around 10,000 - 20,000 Earth years to make one full orbit around the Sun.
"The possibility of a new planet is certainly an exciting one for me as a planetary scientist and for all of us. This is not, however, the detection or discovery of a new planet. It's too early to say with certainty there's a so-called Planet X. What we're seeing is an early prediction based on modeling from limited observations. It's the start of a process that could lead to an exciting result." - Jim Green, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division.
Two planetary scientists declared a ghost planet in 2015 hiding in the depths of the solar system. There claim was based on curious and distant icy worlds of the Kuiper Belt. It was this claim that led to a sparking race to find a ninth planet.
“It has a real magnetism to it, I mean, finding a 10-Earth-mass planet in our own solar system would be a discovery of unrivalled scientific magnitude.”- Gregory Laughlin, astronomer at Yale University.
The orbit of this strange planet is so odd that it leaves no explanation other than the speculation of being our planet nine.
"It’s not proof that Planet Nine exists, but I would say the presence of an object like this in our solar system bolsters the case for Planet Nine.” - David Gerdes, an astronomer at the University of Michigan.
The role of Kuiper Belt
Studying the Kuiper Belt astronomers suggest that some of the dwarf planets and other icy giants orbit our solar system following complicated paths that cluster together. Caltech team, on studying this behaviour of the outer space, predicted the possibility of a giant, previously undiscovered planet, may be hiding far beyond Pluto.
Does that mean we have a 9 planet solar system now?
No, Planet 9 is still in debate of scientific existence and has not been discovered yet. The existence of this distant world that has been found mathematically using computer simulations is only theoretical at this point and no direct observation of the object have been made. The mathematical prediction of this planet could explain the unique orbits of some smaller objects in the Kuiper Belt, (a distant region of icy debris that extends far beyond the orbit of Neptune). Astronomers are now searching for the predicted planet with huge anticipation.
"Anytime we have an interesting idea like this, we always apply Carl Sagan's rules for critical thinking, which include independent confirmation of the facts, looking for alternate explanations, and encouraging scientific debate," said Green. "If Planet X is out there, we'll find it together. Or we'll determine an alternate explanation for the data that we've received so far.
"Now let's go explore."
So what now? Astronomers are all set to use worlds most powerful telescopes to search for this mysterious planet in its predicted orbit. Hoping to welcome a newbie in our solar system.