A new study by an international team of researchers refutes the existence of Planet Nine, which in 2016 had apparently been discovered after the discovery of a cluster of mini-planets beyond Neptune, indicating the gravitational pull of a larger star. Now, the new interpretation maintains that the finding was part of an observation bias, since there are currently no records of the aforementioned grouping.
Is there a huge icy world beyond Neptune, on the periphery of our Solar System? In 2016, a group of astronomers from the California Institute of Technology seemed to have finished with the unknown: Planet Nine was a reality. They affirmed it in their study in the presence of a group of trans-Neptunian objects, whose behavior could only be explained in the face of the existence of a larger body, which exerted gravitational forces on these mini-planets.
However, a new study by an international team of researchers clearly disproves the basis for this apparent discovery. According to a Article published on Phys.org, the scientists argue that the 2016 finding is based on observational bias, motivated by the way in which the studied regions are observed.
The unknown of clustering
In order to capture the supposed group of mini-planets beyond Neptune with a telescope, astronomers needed to focus on a specific area of space on a specific day. Considering the changing nature of the cosmos, such observations can lead to natural biases and consequently to unreliable or doubtful results.
In the view of the scientists responsible for the new study, which was recently published in arXiv, the biases of the observation carried out five years ago are more than evident: for them, there is currently no evidence of the unique grouping of trans-Neptunian objects which became the main foundation of the previous work.
To reach this conclusion, the specialists obtained data from multiple telescopes in different parts of the world, which in none of the cases had been used in previous research. They analyzed elliptical trajectories and built simulations, finally determining that the cluster of mini-planets does not exist or that, at least, it is not possible to verify their existence so far.
A doubt that persists
Despite the forcefulness of their research results, the scientists do not believe that it is still feasible to completely rule out the existence of Planet Nine, although they do acknowledge that their findings considerably reduce the possibilities.
On the other hand, in 2020 another group of researchers had reaffirmed the 2016 finding, carrying out a deep study on the groupings of small planets in the zone of Neptune. They even christened the ninth icy planet “The Goblin” or “The Goblin.” For this team of scientists, the great question to be resolved is whether the sought-after new planet exists in the area near Neptune or whether, failing that, a colossal black hole exerts its influence.
Also last year, astronomers at Yale University again insisted on the existence of Planet Nine. They held in their study that the enigmatic astro would be a supposed super-Earth, with a magnitude that could reach up to 10 times the mass of the Earth.
In the future, doubts could end in the next 10 years because the Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) mission will explore the peripheral regions of the Solar System and specifically the area adjacent to Neptune, finally confirming the existence or not of Planet Nine.
No Evidence for Orbital Clustering in the Extreme Trans-Neptunian Objects. K. J. Napier et al. arXiv (2021).
Photo: ParallelVision en Pixabay.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.