Given that it has a mass of 10 times that of planet Earth, could “Planet Nine” be the “new Pluto”?
By: Ringo Bones
Back in January 20, 2016 researchers led by resident astronomers of the California Institute of Technology – Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin – unveiled the evidence of the existence of a newly discovered planet which was shown to be up to 10 times more massive than our own planet Earth. Currently tentatively named “Planet Nine”, the Caltech astronomers Brown and Batygin used mathematical modeling and computer simulations to describe the newly discovered planet’s mass and probable location in our Solar System even though the newly discovered Planet Nine is yet to be observed directly.
The researchers claim that a huge planet 10 times the mass of Earth probably exists in the frozen Kuiper Belt region of our Solar System. The planet has not yet been located or photographed directly but its presence could explain the high eccentricity of the orbits of Trans Neptunian Objects / Kuiper Belt Objects in which the now dwarf planet Pluto is a member since 2006. At its inferred location, the tentatively named “Planet Nine” could probably take between 10,000 to 20,000 years to complete one orbit around the Sun. By way of comparison, planet Neptune is 17 times the mass of Earth and takes 164.8 years to complete one orbit around the Sun while the planet Uranus is 14.5 times the mass of Earth and takes 84 years to complete one orbit around the Sun.
The evidence for the claim that “Planet Nine” exists is that six of the most distant Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) have orbits that line up in a way that would only happen if the gravity of a massive unknown planet were pulling on them. The researchers predicted that Planet Nine’s gravity would cause another Kuiper Belt Objects to be forced into orbits perpendicular to Planet Nine’s orbit. Some astronomers upon hearing of the discovery even suggested that Planet Nine could be responsible for sending comets originating in the Kuiper Belt to be flung towards the inner Solar System that might have triggered cometary impact mass extinction events during the planet Earth’s distant past. But at present, there’s still insufficient data to make Planet Nine a bona fide planet that could truly replace Pluto as our Solar System’s ninth planet.