Planet Nine has been the elusive world astronomers around the globe have been looking ever since Konstantin Batygin and Michael E. Brown suggested the planet remains hidden beyond the orbit of Neptune, somewhere in the outermost edges of the solar system.
Also dubbed Planet X, Giant Planet Five or Planet Next, astronomers suspect this elusive world is perhaps 10 times more massive than our planet and orbits our sun at an average distance between 600 and 800 astronomical units (AU).
As of 2018, no observation of Planet Nine had been announced.
And despite the fact we have not found the planet itself, astronomers have discovered that our solar system is littered with dwarf planets and smaller cosmic bodies.
Their bodies are peculiar and it caused some scientists to believe there’s really something massive beyond Neptune and Pluto.
And in order to commemorate the three-year anniversary of the announcement ‘hypothesizing’ the existence of a massive, ninth planet in our solar system, researchers have published a set of new scientific papers that offer new tantalizing evidence on planet Nine.
The new papers are reportedly filled with new details and evidence supporting the hypothesis the planet is real. The best part?
Experts suggest we may even find the planet in the not so distant future.
The new recently published papers also provide insight into the size of the elusive planet.
New evidence suggests that 10 Earth masses is an upper limit for Planet Nine while 5 Earth masses and an average orbital distant around the sun of 400 to 500 AU, are likely to be closer to the actual mark.
“At five Earth masses, Planet Nine is likely to be very reminiscent of a typical extrasolar Super-Earth,” says Batygin.
“It is the solar system’s missing link of planet formation. Over the last decade, surveys of extrasolar planets have revealed that similar-sized planets are very common around other sun-like stars. Planet Nine is going to be the closest thing we will find to a window into the properties of a typical planet of our galaxy.”
All of this means that the mystery world may be easier to spot than previously believed.
“Perhaps counterintuitively, the increase in brightness due to a smaller heliocentric distance more than makes up for the decrease in brightness due to a slightly diminished physical radius, suggesting that Planet Nine is more readily discoverable by conventional optical surveys than previously thought,” Batygin and his colleagues wrote in the paper.
And while we still don’t know whether or not this mystery world really is out there, the search for its existence will continue, and experts are confident in finding it soon.
“My favorite characteristic of the Planet Nine hypothesis is that it is observationally testable,” says Batygin.
“The prospect of one day seeing real images of Planet Nine is absolutely electrifying. Although finding Planet Nine astronomically is a great challenge, I’m very optimistic that we will image it within the next decade.”
The study was published online this month in the journal Physics Reports.