There could be two or more undiscovered planets beyond ‘Planet Nine’
The news follows reports that there could be a huge icy world, nicknamed Planet 9 , lurking undiscovered in space beyond Neptune. Two more elusive planets could be hiding at the edge of our solar system, according to a team of astronomers.
Pinpointed by researchers from California Institute of Technology (Caltech), the mysterious Planet Nine is thought to be around four times the size of Earth and orbiting the sun on a massively wide course which could explain why it’s never been discovered before.
The possibility of the two new planets is the result of further calculations from the same data responsible for identifying the hypothetical planet.
The existence of Planet Nine is based on the unusual movement of several objects floating in the Kuiper belt, suggesting that their orbits are being shaped by an undiscovered planet.
However, the new findings published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters , suggest that the gravitational pull of Planet Nine would mean that the objects are too unstable to be moving the way that Caltech researchers think they are.
According to independent astronomers Carlos and Marcos de la Fuente and Sverre J. Aarseth from the University of Cambridge, this suggests that their stable movement may be the result of the gravitational pull of two or more undiscovered planets.
However, some experts, including the Caltech researchers, are skeptical about the new findings.
“We have a nearly identical analysis which shows nearly the opposite result. It is not obvious to me why they would get such a different answer,” Caltech’s Mike Brown told the Daily Mail .
While NASA scientists are excited by the possibility of new planets, they are keen to stress that Planet 9 and the two new planets have not actually been discovered, but are based on predictions resulting from scientific observations.
- What do we know about ‘Planet Nine’? Mounting evidence shows another world in our solar system