We have known about Planet Nine for quite some time now, a hypothetical planet beyond Pluto. But what exactly do we know about it?
Back in 2016, astronomers Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin announced that their findings on the dwarf planet 2012 VP113’s orbit match the orbits of five other trans-Neptunian objects. In 2018, trans-Neptunian object 2015 BP519 was also found to have a pretty unusual trajectory, which could be controlled by a similar mass as the ones found in 2016.
This clustering is the best evidence we have now about an undiscovered planet in the Solar System, alongside the orbit of 90377 Sedna – this one cannot be explained by the existence of Neptune.
So what’s with these clusters of trans-Neptunian objects?
These clusters could be the result of plenty of phenomena and not necessarily a giant planet. Smaller objects from the right area, at the right time, could come with the necessary gravitational heave for the forming of these clusters. Or there could be a tiny black hole or instabilities in an orbiting disc – there’s no straightforward way of knowing for now.
And still, what about Planet Nine?
The planet’s mass would probably be ten times greater than Earth’s. Its girth would get close to the range of an ice giant. It would be placed somewhere between Jupiter and Neptune, and it would be like any other gas planet from our Solar System.
Finding its exact spot would be difficult. There are some telescopes that could find it, but for that to happen, scientists need first to find the sections of space where Planet Nine is unlikely to exist.
As of now, the Solar System remains with its well-known planets. Even if we still don’t know if Planet Nine actually exists, we can still learn more about our Solar System and its mysteries.