The Hunt For Planet X May Soon End
Lately, it seems that every other day we're hearing news regarding the rapid forward progress being made in the search for Planet X. Lets take a quick look at how we have gotten to this point...
For as long as most people could remember, our solar system was believed to have consisted of 9 planets - Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and finally Pluto. This is what we were all taught as school children, and it seemed to be an irrefutable fact of science.
However, in 2006 a group of astronomers, led by Michael E. Brown of CalTech began to argue that Pluto, the smallest and most distant 'planet' in our solar system, was actually a 'dwarf planet'. As it turns out, Pluto is just the first of numerous similar, icy masses in its region, known as the Kuiper Belt. It was the discovery of these masses that truly began the debate over the demotion of Pluto to dwarf planet status. If Pluto was indeed a full blown planet, then Kuiper Belt Objects such as Quaoar (discovered 2002), Sedna (2003) and Eris (2005) could all be classified as the same. Eris, in particular is even larger than Pluto. How could it not be a planet if Pluto was?
Ultimately, after much deliberation, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) voted to downgrade Pluto to a dwarf planet, and it shares this status with its Kuiper Belt siblings.
For some time it seemed we would go on simply having 8 planets in our solar system. But that now seems poised to change. And perhaps change soon.
In 2015, Caltech astronomers announced that new research had provided evidence of a potentially new ninth planet. A gigantic planet, following an odd, oblong orbit in our outer solar system. The existance of this large object could help explain the unusual orbits of the previously discovered smaller masses of the Kuiper Belt. The researchers at Caltech believe that this theoretical planet could be 10x the size of Earth, with an orbit nearly 20x farther from the sun than Neptune, which is currently the furthest known planet from the sun in our system. This means it would take about 20,000 years to make just one revolution around the sun!
Earlier this month astronomers announced the discovery of a new dwarf planet dubbed 'The Goblin', far beyond Pluto, in our outer solar system.
The peculiar orbit of The Goblin is leading researchers to speculate that it may have been shaped by the gravitational pull of a very large mass, deep in the frigid realm. Could it be the sought after ninth planet, AKA Planet X? Only time, and more research will tell. The more of these dwarf planets that are discovered, the more 'breadcrumbs' will be available to scientists to track down the mass responsible for this gravitational force. The fact that this planet hasn't yet been seen by humans is easy to explain - the remote distance of this mass would make it all but impossible for most telescopes to view. Its believed to be up to 1,000 astronomical units (AU) away from Earth. For reference, 1 AU is roughly 93 million miles!
However, there is still plenty of hope for getting a visual confirmation to prove the existence of the rogue planet. During a recent interview with the legendary Linda Moulton Howe, Prof. Brown stated that he will be heading out to the Keck and Suburu Observatories in Hawaii around November 1st to renew his search for visual confirmation of Planet X. He believes that he has a real chance to find the mysterious mass due to recent refinements made to his computer models of the orbits. He will be going in November because the models predict that the planet is near the Orion constellation, which is only able to be seen during winter.
If his research is fruitful, it seems we may soon have a new ninth planet in our solar system, and much fodder for those who believe in the existence of the prophetic planet Niribu. We'll go in depth into these prophecies next month. Stay tuned...