A new study has determined the location of the ninth planet’s orbit, tracing its path around the sun.
Scientists have debated the existence of Planet Nine since it was first introduced several years ago, but a new study has determined the orbit of the supposed celestial body.
Caltech researchers Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin determined the orbital path of the mysterious planet, which has not yet been discovered.
in a PublishingBrown explained that the “highest probability” for Planet Nine’s location is near aphelion, the point at which it is furthest from the Sun, about 60 degrees in Right Ascension, “very close to galactic plane.”
If Planet Nine were in fact at mean apogee at the moment, it would be about 500 astronomical units (AU), or roughly 46.5 billion miles from the Sun.
When mapping the entire sky, the astronomers go from 360 to 0 in the Right Ascension.
One AU is equivalent to about 93 million miles.
“Using samples from the orbital elements and estimates of that planet’s radius and albedo, we calculated a probability distribution function for Planet Nine’s position in the sky and its brightness,” the researchers wrote in the study.
“By many reasonable assumptions, Planet Nine is closer and brighter than initially expected, although the probability distribution includes a long tail at greater distances, and uncertainty in the radius and albedo of Planet Nine could result in weaker bodies.”
Brown and Batygin created the map by looking at some known objects in the Kuiper belt (icy bodies outside of Neptune), many of which have strange orbits that researchers believe may be affected by Planet Nine.
The researchers used the clustering of Kuiper Belt objects as a sign of the existence of Planet Nine, given how strange it is that it occurs naturally.
“After updating the estimates of observational biases, we found that clustering was still significant at the 99.6% confidence level,” the study authors wrote, meaning that there are only 0.4 percent chances that clustering is odd and smooth.
More than 2,000 Kuiper belt objects have been identified, but there could be “hundreds of thousands” in the area, according to NASA.
They used the clustering of eleven known Kuiper belt objects (the green dots) and found that there was only a 0.4% chance that the clustering was an odd event.
The researchers also estimated that Planet Nine has a mass of 6.2 times the mass of Earth and its circumference (closest to the Sun) at about 300 AU. Its tilt, compared to the plane of the solar system, is about 16 degrees.
By contrast, Earth’s tilt is 0 degrees, while Pluto’s tilts 17 degrees, according to EarthSky.org.
The study was accepted in Astronomical Journal A print version of it is available at arXiv.
Planet Nine and its existence has been controversial, with many other researchers claiming it does not exist.
In February, a group of researchers claimed that the unusual orbits in the Kuiper belt may be an illusion.
In January 2019, a study Separately also said that the unusual orbits of objects in the Kuiper belt could be due to a broad disk of small icy bodies affecting other orbits of the bodies.
Others have suggested that the object is a mirage or may be a black hole the size of a grapefruit.
In contrast, some other scientists have sided with Brown and Batygin, suggesting that the mysterious planet is real and could be found in the next decade using high-powered telescopes.
Researchers have already found an exoplanet with similar characteristics to Planet Nine, 336 light-years from Earth, HD106906 b, which was identified by the Hubble Space Telescope.
In 2017, NASA issued a statement suggesting that Planet Nine may be 20 times as far from the Sun as Neptune, adding a comment from Batygin, who said, “It is now difficult to imagine our solar system without Planet Nine than it is with one.”
In 2019, researchers published a study suggesting that NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Study Satellite may have already found Planet Nine.
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