Planet 9 Can’t Run Forever. Two Asteroids Give Up Some Clues

Article Updated: 27 Feb , 2017

Last year, Caltech astronomers Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin found indirect evidence for the existence of a large planet in the outer reaches of our Solar System — likely located out past Pluto — and since then, the search has been on. The latest research continues to show signs of an unseen planet, the hypothetical Planet 9.

Astronomers using the Gran Telescopio CANARIAS (GTC) in the Canary Islands looked at two distant asteroids called Extreme Trans Neptunian Objects’ (ETNOs), and spectroscopic observations show and their present-day orbits could be the result of a past interaction with a large “superearth”-type object orbiting the Sun at a distance between 300 to 600 AU.

Researchers say the orbits of asteroids 2004 VN112 and 2013 RF98 suggest that the two were once a binary asteroid which separated after an encounter a large body, with a mass of between 10 and 20 Earth masses.

“The similar spectral gradients observed for the pair 2004 VN112 – 2013 RF98 suggests a common physical origin,” said Julia de León, the first author of a new paper, and who is an astrophysicist at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC). “We are proposing the possibility that they were previously a binary asteroid which became unbound during an encounter with a more massive object.”

Sequence of images taken with the Gran Telescopio CANARIAS (GTC) to identify one of the ETNO´s studied in this article, 2013 RF98, where one can see how it moves during four consecutive nights. Below, right, visible spectra obtained with the GTC of the two objects 2004 VN112 and 2013 RF98. The red lines show the gradients of the spectra. Credit: Julia de León (IAC).

To test their hypothesis, the team performed thousands of simulations to see how the poles of the orbits would separate as time went on. The results of these simulations suggest that a possible Planet 9 could have separated the pair of asteroids around 5 to 10 million years ago.

de León said this could explain, in principle, how these two asteroids, starting as a pair orbiting one another, became gradually separated in their orbits after an encounter with a much more massive object at a particular moment in time.

The tale of Planet 9 started in 2014, when astronomers Chad Trujillo and Scott Shepard were studying the motions of large objects in the Kuiper Belt and realized that a large planet in the outer Solar System must be altering orbits of several ETNOs the in Kuiper Belt.

Brown and Batygin were looking to verify or refute the research of Trujillo and Shepard, and they painstakingly analyzed the movement of various KBOs. They found that six different objects all seem to follow a very similar elliptical orbit that points back to the same region in space.

All the bodies were found to be inclined at a plane of about 30-degrees different from almost everything else in the Solar System. Brown said the odds of these orbits all occurring randomly are about 1 in 100.

But calculations revealed the orbits could be influenced by a massive planet way out beyond the orbit of Pluto, about 200 times further than the distance from the Sun to the Earth. This planet would be Neptune-sized, roughly 10 times more massive than Earth.

It hasn’t been found yet, but the hunt is on by large telescopes around the world, and a new citizen science project allows people around the world to join in the search.

The latest findings of by de León and team could help point the way to where Planet 9 might be lurking.

Source: PhysOrg

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7 Responses

  1. laurele says:

    This object should be referred to as “Planet X,” not “Planet 9,” as many planetary scientists adhere to the geophysical planet definition, according to which our solar system has at least 13 planets because dwarf planets are planets too. The “X” in “Planet X” does not refer to the number 10 but to an unknown object; this is the traditional description used for such an object. Calling this Planet 9 is an insult to the late Clyde Tombaugh, discoverer of Pluto, which is still considered by many to be the ninth planet in our solar system.

    • dkconfiguration says:

      Get over it Laurele. Referring to it as a prosective planet-9 is not incorrect, and is technically accurate. Plantes are planets, and dwarf planets are dwarf planets. Since there are presently only 8 “planets”, referring to it as “Planet 9” is the most technically correct manner in which to describe it, as there are no other known prospective planets on the verge of being discovered. If we go back to calling Pluto a planet, then we will soon wind up with over 100 planets, which is absurd. I never hear any of the Tombaugh fanclub jumping to the defense of Giuseppe Piazzi over Ceres having been reclassified…..

      • Pvt.Pantzov says:

        Just to play the devil’s advocate: why would having over 100 planets be considered “absurd”?

  2. resenmut says: if I am right , places which I recomended for P9, P10 are correct. Those places-hot spots from Milagros cosmic rays survay-identical with those my Atlant. sources,.. are places where planetoids with long main axes, behind Pluto were found.
    Place B cca near Aldebaran, place A cca on border between Libra and Virgo,… I think, if I am correct that protons can’t be accelerated on such high speeds by planetoids. There must be heavy objects in those directions, ‘prolongating’ orbits to their directions and must be very massive, how it results also from those ancient sources. So there could be closer P9 accelerating, prolongating planetoids (their orbits) to it’s direction. (P9 is lighter, closer,because hot spots were moving quite quickly in last years) and P10-heavier (static hot spot) and much more distant-in direction Aldebaran,…

    There are various theories about Planet X, Planet 9, Planet10, Nibiru, Nemesis, Vulcan,… When we look on orbits of those 6 Planetoids (behind Pluto) with very prolongated orbits (also on half of heaviest centaurs, which go to orbit of Neptune, or behind,.. Pholus, Asbolus,… Halley comet 153P/Ikeya-Zhang-go also behind Neptune), so it shows that there are two directions of pull. One direction is toward Leo-Libra/Virgo, the second is cca Aldebaran. It looks so also from my calculations, comput. from ancient sources (astronomical Egyptian Senmut map, Narmer palette, Chinesse banner of Mark. Tai, from even more ancient possible Atl. sources-carpet,..). This is also cca the same what shows Los Alamos Milagro’s cosmic rays survay, comput. of Robert Harrington from deviations of Pioneers,… Brown, Batygin suppose that P9 has orbit cca till 20000 and is 200,400 or more AU from us. This is cca the same what shows Atlantean source for Nemesis- till 26000years orbit, with 1000AU and 500AU axes, but much more massive than Browns 10Earths. From that ancient astronomical depiction it looks on mass even 30- 40Jupiters. Brown, Batygin don’t suppose another planet, but My conclusions, those sources of pull,.. show also existance of very massive Planet-Nibiru with orbit 1300-2100years. This could have perihelia somewere behind Pluto, but also even in, over Band of Asteroids between Jupiter and Mars,..
    Maybe big mistake is, that astronomers expect, that PlX, or PX is, are planet like, or planetoid like objects, so must be visible with our best telescopes. But, if PLX,X are very densty, neutron star like, cores of dwarf stars,… we should try to find them with other methods. Maybe the prooper way is like Milagro cosmic rays pool detector survay. That method was used also in pre-ancient past by technically advanced civilisation-active proton/cosmic rays pyramidal telescopes described in my works.
    Pavel Smutny

  3. caw says:

    Didn’t one of the Voyagers experience anomalies in it’s trajectory suggesting a planetary body in the vicinity? Perhaps these data might help in the search for planet X.

  4. Andrew9 says:

    Hi All,

    if there is a ninth planet in orbit and 10 to 20 times the mass of the earth, what will happen to earth when it gets closer with that kind of mass. If the speculated 9th planet is assumed to be distorting the kuiper belt, what would happen when it gets close to earth in it’s orbit? this sound like an extinction level event, earth quakes and extreme temp changes. I haves seen some of the articles/videos on the nature oan existance of the 9th planet. Just wondering if any real public released studies are being done.

  5. Michael says:

    I nominate Lelantos for the planet name. A Titan whose name derives from a word meaning “to escape notice” or “move unseen” or “go unobserved”.

    Of course by then it will be observed but it escaped notice for a long time.

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