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There Might Be Another Planet In Our Solar System

Astronomers may have discovered a gigantic ninth planet located far beyond the known planets.

Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science and Chad Trujillo of Hawaii's Gemini Observatory published a paper in 2014 about the changing orbits of dwarf planets in the outer solar system, according to The Washington Post.

The way in which these icy dwarf planets, which were only discovered about 10 years ago, moved and grouped together seemed to be affected by the gravity of a much larger object, which the two scientists presumed to be a planet.

Michael Brown and Konstantin Batygin of the California Institute of Technology used equations and computer models to conclude the planet Sheppard and Trujillo proposed would likely be five to 10 times as massive as Earth.

They are calling this theoretical object Planet Nine, and it is now reportedly being searched for by telescopes on at least two continents.

In a recently published paper, Brown and Batygin suggested Planet Nine has a diameter two to four times larger than Earth's, which would make it the fifth largest planet.

According to their theory, Planet Nine is located about 20 times farther away from the sun than Neptune, making seeing it via telescope very difficult, partially due to the lack of sunlight in the far reaches of the solar system.

The astronomers believe the gravitational force of Jupiter or Saturn pushed Planet Nine far into space, where it exhibits a strange elliptical-shaped orbit and may only reach its closest distance to the sun once every 10,000 years.

Though no one directly observed the proposed planet yet, Brown is confident Planet Nine could still be seen if the most powerful telescopes all point in the same precise direction.

He reportedly said,

If other people – better astronomers – get excited about the idea of finding Planet Nine, we could hopefully see it within a couple of years.

Brown and Batygin's theory is all the more interesting because Brown was the astronomer primarily responsible for Pluto's classification as a dwarf planet about 10 years ago.

Brown said his daughter was the inspiration for his new project, since she only promised to forgive him for demoting Pluto if he discovered a new planet.

Citations: New evidence suggests a ninth planet lurking at the edge of the solar system (The Washington Post), EVIDENCE FOR A DISTANT GIANT PLANET IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM (The Astronomical Journal)