The hunt for planet nine began three years ago. The research started at that time has progressed to the point that four possible candidates have now been discovered. These discoveries were made with the help of citizen scientists, tens of thousands of them, who volunteered to carefully examine hundreds of thousands of images in order to search for the object which could potentially change everything we know about our current solar system.
According to FOX News, the pictures were captured with Siding Spring Observatory’s SkyMapper telescope, with this observatory being located in Australia. Five million classifications were recorded by the volunteers, whose numbers totaled over 60,000. Twelve thousand of these were made by a single participant, Toby Roberts. The project was organized by researchers at the Australian National University, or ANU. It only took the citizen scientists three days to come up with all of these classifications, including the four that are being looked into as candidates for planet nine, despite the volunteers having to work through four years worth of satellite images.
The four objects, reveals The Columbian, will now be studied closer using not only the Siding Spring telescope, but others around the world in order to gather as much concrete information about them as possible, thus being able to narrow down the list and find the true planet nine. Even if none of these objects turn out to be what researchers are looking for, project team members say that they will not view this as a loss, as all of the effort put into the search has still “yielded valuable information” that could be used in future studies.
One of the objects crossed off the list of potential planet nine candidates, says research leader Brad Tucker, was a planet “about the size of Neptune,” located in roughly 90 percent of the southern sky. It was out to a depth around 350 times the distance between the Earth and sun. Tucker works for the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Physics, reports Forbes.
Scientists first began seriously considering that there was indeed a planet nine after they realized that certain “orbital characteristics” were shared between the body 2012 VP113, the dwarf planet Sedna and other planetary objects located far away from the now discredited Pluto. Two years later, at the beginning of 2016, the hypothesis was looked into thoroughly and led to researchers discovering that planet nine, as it became dubbed by astronomers, may indeed be orbiting around other distant objects in space. Planet nine, should it actually exist, is said to be 10 times more massive than Earth.
By Lorelai Zelmerlow
Photo Courtesy Australian National University