Scientists believe they may be on the verge of locating another planet in the Kuiper Belt. Different from Planet Nine, this planet maybe the size of Mars and be on the cusp of the solar system. Currently, this planet seems to be messing with celestial bodies’ orbits. Planet Nine, however, remains to be discovered. The hypothetical planet, according to researchers, was declared in 2016, leading researchers to go on the hunt for the planet. Now, this mysterious tenth planet could also be out in the Milky Way. Researchers from the University of Arizona submitted their research to the Astronomical Journal.
Planet Nine is thought to be ten times the size of the Earth and could be lurking just beyond the Kuiper Belt. It is believed to be the driving force in throwing other smaller bodies off course and towards the massive planet. But since the planet has not been discovered, nothing can be known for sure. The Kuiper Belt is disc-like in shape and extends from Neptune’s orbit. Larger than the asteroid belt, the Kuiper Belt is 20 times wider and more than 200 times as massive. Consisting of many smaller celestial bodies, the Kuiper Belt is home to Pluto, Haumea, and Makemake.
Researchers Kat Volk and Renu Malhotra looked at over 600 Kuiper Belt objects, including their “tilt angles and orbits,” according to Newsweek. Most of the objects were angled away from their “orbital plane,” meaning that something close by was messing with their orbits. That something might be something large and something heavy, Volk said. The object needed to be as large as Mars to warp the orbits of anything sitting close to the it. Volk and Malhotra hope the launching of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope can help them identify the potential planet or whatever is out there.
Popular Mechanics reported that the mysterious object is “twice as far away from us as Pluto.” Already skepticism has begun. An object this big, let alone two, would not be hard to spot. So, why have they not been spotted yet? One theory states that the planet or planets are located in “dark and non-reflective” areas of the sky where researchers have not scoured thoroughly. Scientific American reported that the astronomical surveys that spotted several celestial objects were not perfect. The surveys were fighting against “reduced visibility due to bad weather.” The “odd grouping” the Kuiper Belt objects stresses the theory of a hidden object. But before anything can be declared, researchers still need to find Planet Nine and Planet Ten.
By Cheryl Werber
Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech