There’s a mystery scientist can’t seem to solve at the outermost edges of our solar system.
There, beyond the orbit of Neptune, strange things are taking place. Astronomers have spotted a number of cosmic objects that are orbiting our sun differently from all other cosmic bodies in our solar system, and experts can’t seem to figure out why.
One theory suggests that an undiscovered cosmic object, a massive world, called Planet Nine could be influencing the orbits of other smaller objects. But despite the fact there are indicators that suggest such a planet exists, astronomers have failed to find it despite actively searching for it.
The idea that Planet Nine existed, and that it actively influenced smaller object around it was first proposed in 2016 when astronomers studying Kuiper belt objects noticed several Trans Neptunian Objects were detached from the powerful gravitational pull of our solar system’s gas giants.
The astronomers also noted the objects orbiting our sun beyond Neptune had orbits different from the rest of the objects that make up the Kuiper Belt.
In addition to the above, the orbits of six specific TNOs were clustered together in such a way that didn’t appear to be random. This led experts to suggest that ‘something’ must have altered their orbit and tugged them into position.
A massive planet sounded like a great idea.
But so far, no planet (like planet Nine) has been discovered out there.
However, there are some experts who argue that it may not be a planet that’s messing around with the orbit of cosmic objects located beyond Neptune.
A new study suggests that the orbital anomalies may be caused by a combined gravitational pull of various smaller trans-Neptunian objects or TNOs.
The theory, proposed by astrophysicists Antranik Sefilian of the University of Cambridge in the UK and Jihad Touma of the American University of Beirut in Lebanon is interesting.
However, it isn’t the first time someone thought of that, but the calculations made by Sefilian and Touma are the first to successfully explain a number of different features about the strange orbit of these objects, while taking into consideration the existence of eight planets in our solar system, as well as their gravitational pull.
“The Planet Nine hypothesis is a fascinating one, but if the hypothesized ninth planet exists, it has so far avoided detection,” Sefilian explained, further suggesting that the group of scientists wanted to see if there was a less dramatic explanation of the anomalous TNO orbits that did not involve a massive undiscovered planet.
“We thought, rather than allowing for a ninth planet, and then worry about its formation and unusual orbit, why not simply account for the gravity of small objects constituting a disk beyond the orbit of Neptune and see what it does for us?”
Scientists eventually created a computer model of the TNOs showing anomalous orbits as well as the plants of our solar system, taking into consideration their gravitational pull.
They also included a disc of debris located beyond the orbit of Neptune.
They then included elements such as the mess, eccentricity, and orientation of the disc, and were able to successfully recreate the clustered orbits of the detached Trans Neptunian Objects.
“If you remove Planet Nine from the model, and instead allow for lots of small objects scattered across a wide area, collective attractions between those objects could just as easily account for the eccentric orbits we see in some TNOs,” Sefilian explained.
The new study is available in the preprint server arXiv and is due to be published in the Astronomical Journal.