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Click here for Linda Moulton Howe's 2017 Bio.

Search Ongoing for 9th Planet, So Massive
It Tilts Solar System Planets 6 Degrees

© 2017 by Linda Moulton Howe

 

“My first guess is that it'll be kind of like Neptune,
but I don't know what it's going to look like.”

- Michael Brown, Ph.D., Prof. of Planetary Astronomy, Caltech


Our sun is the yellow sphere. Planet orbits are depicted as
gravitationally interacting rings where Orbit 9 depicts the great elliptical
path of what the astronomers think is a gaseous 9th planet in the Oort cloud
that is 10-20 times the mass of our Earth. Why such a huge planet would have such
an elliptical orbit is still unknown. Speculation is that a passing star at
the time the solar system formed might have pulled Planet 9 into the
strange orbit. Graphic by Michael Brown & Konstantin Batygin 2016.


California Inst. of Technology astronomers Mike Brown, Ph.D.,
and Konstantin Batygin, Ph.D., discovered that thirteen objects in the Kuiper Belt
surrounding our solar system were all moving together as if influenced
by the gravity of a very large object that is so far not visible. Above illustration
of ninth planet with our Sun in the lower right corner by Caltech/R. Hurt.

 

January 27, 2017 Pasadena, California - One year ago on January 29, 2016, I reported at my news website, Earthfiles.com, and my Coast to Coast AM radio broadcast,  about a newly discovered ninth planet at the edges of our solar system. Michael Brown, Ph.D., Professor of Planetary Astronomy at Caltech in Pasadena,  reported that a huge object ten to twenty times the mass of Earth was moving in a big looping orbit far beyond Pluto in the region between the Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud. Prof. Brown simply calls it “Planet 9.” The discovery has been like chasing a ghost. Whatever is out there, its mass is so great that its gravitational field pushes half a dozen other Kuiper Belt objects to cluster together on the opposite side of Planet 9's huge looping orbit.


In this Caltech computer simulation of orbital objects in the Kuiper Belt surrounding our
solar system (glowing center), the mysterious "9th Planet" has a very elongated orbit (gold)
and takes between 10,000 and 20,000 years to orbit our Sun. Depending on its current
distance from Earth, our largest telescopes— such as the twin 10-meter telescopes
at the W. M. Keck Observatory and the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii — 
will be needed to see it at its greatest distance, but many other telescopes
will be able to see it if closer in orbit. Source: Jan. 20, 2016 Astronomical Journal.

The mystery object doesn't come anywhere close to our solar system's original Planet 9 that used to be Pluto before it was reduced to an icy dwarf planet because Pluto is too small to be a real planet.

In fact, it was Mike Brown, Professor of Planetary Astronomy at Caltech since 2003, who is responsible for Pluto's downfall. Fourteen years ago, Prof. Brown discovered another dwarf planet he called Eris that is more massive than Pluto. So it was Prof. Brown who argued that Pluto should be downgraded from the 9th planet in our solar system to a dwarf planet and he wrote a book in 2010 about that change entitled, How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming.


How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming © 2012 by Mike Brown,
Ph.D., Prof. of Astronomy, Caltech, Pasadena, California. See More Info below.

Now in January 2017, after a year of high hopes that his photography at the twin Keck and Suburu Telescopes in Hawaii would show Planet 9’s smudge of movement, Prof. Brown is still looking, trying to nail down where Planet 9 is. But  so far to date, no moving smudge has been found in images. And visible light telescopes  have not  been able to see any reflection from a large body at the edge of the Oort Cloud 1,000 Astronomical Units from Earth.

Graphic shows the distance from the Oort cloud to the rest of the Solar System and two of the nearest stars, Alpha Centauri and AC+79 3888, measured in astronomical units. The scale is logarithmic, with each specified distance ten times further out than the previous one. Graphic by NASA / JPL-Caltech.

But Professor Brown was on 60 Minutes in early January 2017 to talk about his search for hard evidence of Planet 9's massive Neptune-like existence. He said he hoped he would have photographic moving-smudge evidence by the end of this year. If that happens, then every large telescope on Earth and in orbit will stare where the first smudge is found and try to get more detailed photographs of the mysterious, massive object that might even be a captured rogue planet from a completely foreign star system.


Interview:


Michael E. Brown, Ph.D., has been Professor of Planetary
Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
since 2003, where he discovered the dwarf planet Eris,
more massive than Pluto, that caused Pluto to be downgraded
from the 9th planet of our solar system to a dwarf planet.
Prof. Brown's 2010 book is entitled How I Killed Pluto
and Why It Had It Coming.

 

Michael E. Brown, Ph.D., Prof. of Planetary Astronomy, California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Pasadena, California: “PROFESSOR BROWN, WHY IS IT SO DIFFICULT TO SEE EVEN IN VISIBLE LIGHT REFLECTED?

The problem is that it is so far away that even though large, it's amongst the faintest things that we can see with our biggest telescopes. So we have to spend a lot of time on the very small number of really large telescopes to have a hope of seeing it at all.

WHAT IS IT THAT YOU LOOK FOR?

We take a picture of the sky, and then we come back the next night, and we take a picture of the same spot in the sky, and we look for anything that's moving between those two nights. All the stars and all the galaxies are going to be in the same place night after night after night after night, and anything that's in our solar system will be moving across the sky. And because Planet 9 will be so far away, it'll be the slowest moving object in our solar system, so we'll just barely see it move in those two nights, but as soon as we see it move, we'll know what it is.

THEN YOU WOULD WHAT — GO BACK OUT TO HAWAII TO SUBARU, KECK, AND START TAKING MORE PHOTOGRAPHS RIGHT AT THAT POINT WHERE YOU SEE WHAT YOU THINK MIGHT BE A MOVING SMUDGE?

That's exactly right. We would predict where it should be a week later, and then we will look with things like the Keck Telescope, but we'll also, at that point, try to get our hands on every other telescope you can imagine. That will be a perfect thing to look at with the Hubble Space Telescope, with big radio telescopes like in South America. Many, many different telescopes will be able to observe it once we pinpoint where it is.

OK. AND YOU MEAN OBSERVE IN VISIBLE LIGHT SO THAT WE MIGHT ACTUALLY GET TELESCOPIC PHOTOGRAPHS OF THIS MASSIVE OBJECT OUT BETWEEN THE KUIPER BELT AND THE OORT CLOUD?

Absolutely.

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT IT'S GOING TO LOOK LIKE?

It's going to be interesting to see. My first guess is that it'll be kind of like Neptune because it's close in mass to Neptune. And yet, it's so much further out the Neptune and so much colder that it clearly is going to be different in some ways. And people have tried to predict what it will be like. And I think one of the really interesting things will be to see how well we can even predict these things. I don't know what it's going to look like.

SO IF IT IS A PLANET COMPARABLE TO NEPTUNE, THAT WOULD BE ENOUGH MASS TO CAUSE THE 13 OBJECTS TO CLUSTER TOGETHER?

Absolutely.

OK, NOW IF IT IS A GASEOUS NEPTUNE-TYPE PLANET, HOW COULD IT REMAIN GASEOUS THAT FAR AWAY FROM THE SUN?

So you might think that because it's so far away all those gases should freeze, but just like the Earth, a planet like that will have a lot of heat coming from its inside, and the bigger the planet is, the more heat it has coming from the inside. Even a planet like Uranus, more heat is coming from the inside on Uranus that is coming in from the sun. So once you get out beyond Uranus's distance, the fact that there's very little sunlight actually doesn't matter very much because you still have all that heat coming from the inside. Now, if you could wait something like a hundred billion years, then that planet would freeze into a little ice ball because all of its internal heat would finally go away.

 

Why Is Planet 9 So Far Away
from Inner Solar System?


The unusually closely spaced orbits of six of the most distant objects in the Kuiper Belt may
indicate the existence of a ninth planet whose gravity affects these movements.
Image credit: Wikimedia user nagualdesign via Caltech, public domain.

WHY WOULD SOMETHING LIKE NEPTUNE, 10 TO 20 TIMES THE SIZE OF THE EARTH, BE ALL THE WAY OUT TO THE INNER OORT CLOUD FROM ALL THE REST OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM?

That's a really great question, and it's one that our current theories about the existence of Planet 9 don't really say anything about how it got that. But it's one that we can still speculate about. There have been really two main ideas that people have talked about that make sense.

 

Rogue Planet? Or Knocked by Jupiter?

One is that it actually could have been captured. It could have been another star was going by, it had a planet, and we stole its planet. So it actually started around a different star, and now it's around ours.

But I think the more likely scenario is that Planet 9 formed close to Uranus and Neptune. I think it's not a coincidence that it's about the same mass as Uranus and Neptune. It formed close to them, but if you try to put too many planets together, one of them will get jostled around and eventually get a bit too close to Jupiter or a little bit too close to Saturn, and it will get a slingshot outward. And just like we do with all of our spacecraft when we're sending them out past Jupiter, we slingshot them past Jupiter. This would be a planet slingshotting past Jupiter, and then it gets ejected into the outer part of the solar system where it lurks for the next four billion years.

 

Massive Gravitational Force of Planet 9
Causes Solar System Planets to Tilt by 6 Degrees

OUR SUN HAS WHAT IS CALLED A MYSTERIOUS SIX DEGREE TILT. AND YOU HAVE DONE RESEARCH TRYING TO FIGURE THAT OUT, AND YOU NOW LINK THE SIX DEGREE TILT TO THE DISCOVERY OF THE MYSTERIOUS NINTH PLANET?

Yeah, it's quite a remarkable chain of events. All of the eight planets that we know are all in one disk around the sun. They're tilted with respect to each other by at most about one degree. It's really a very flat disk. And the sun itself is tilted compared to that disk by about six degrees. Six degrees is not a huge number, but when everything else is so flat compared to that, it really stands out.”

 

Prof. Brown in collaboration with Caltech grad student Elizabeth Bailey and Caltech Asst. Prof. Konstantin Batygin, have published in The Astrophysical Journal new data that points further to the existence of the mystery planet.


The Astrophysical Journal, July 20, 2016. See Websites below.

Elizabeth Bailey and Prof. Batygin explained in an October 19, 2016, Caltech press release: “Because Planet Nine is so massive and has an orbit tilted compared to the other planets, the solar system has no choice but to slowly twist out of alignment. ...the sun is staying put in its fixed reference frame, but it's the planetary orbits that are being tilted ...so Planet Nine has tilted the entire disk of the solar system by 6 degrees and because we live on that disk, to us it looks like the sun is tilted. But it's actually the other way around.”

Our sun is the yellow sphere. Planet orbits are depicted as
gravitationally interacting rings where Orbit 9 depicts the great elliptical
path of what the astronomers think is a gaseous 9th planet in the Oort cloud
that is 10-20 times the mass of our Earth. Why such a huge planet would have such
an elliptical orbit is still unknown. Speculation is that a passing star at
the time the solar system formed might have pulled Planet 9 into the
strange orbit. Graphic by Michael Brown & Konstantin Batygin 2016.

Prof. Mike Brown: “And this was first discovered in the mid-1800s, but there hasn't ever really been a very good explanation for why that might be. And while we were working on our ideas about Planet 9, I think we realized that the existence of Planet 9 requires that the sun be tilted. And so it's actually not the sun that's tilted, but Planet 9 tilts the planets. If all the planets started out with exactly the same orientation as the sun, over four billion years, Planet 9 would slowly tilt those planets in the direction of Planet 9, and we could calculate about how much that would happen. And the answer is about six degrees. So we are living on a six degree tilted Earth. We look at the sun and say, “Oh, no! The sun is tilted by six degrees.” But it's really us who are tilted by six degrees.

ISN'T THAT AMAZING THAT ALL OF THIS IMPACT ON THE SOLAR SYSTEM AND EVEN THE SUN WOULD BE CAUSED BY AN OBJECT OUT IN THE OORT CLOUD THAT WE CAN'T EVEN SEE?

Yeah, I think it's actually incredible. The trick is that Planet 9 is so far away that it has a huge lever arm. It's not nearly as massive as Jupiter, and yet it can still tilt the orbit of Jupiter because it's so far away that it can pull on that lever so well.

 

Could There Also Be A 10th Planet?

BETWEEN WHERE WE ARE RIGHT NOW ON EARTH AND 100,000 ASTRONOMICAL UNITS OUT TO THE EDGE OF THE OORT CLOUD, DO YOU THINK THERE'S ANY POSSIBILITY THERE'S A TENTH PLANET?


The Earth is 93 million miles from the Sun. That is one Astronomical Unit.
The inner edge of the Kuiper Belt is about 30 astronomical units from the Sun.

Absolutely. It's hard to imagine that there's not. It might be one that's just beyond Planet 9. There might be ones that are out lurking in the Oort Cloud. I don't know. But now that we understand more about the solar system and how it formed and how things got ejected around, it would surprise me more if there's not one than if there is one.

 

More Image Searching Fall 2017

WHEN IS YOUR NEXT TRIP TO THE HAWAIIAN SUBARU TELESCOPE TO TAKE MORE PHOTOS?

We think that Planet 9 is in the part of the sky that's only visible in the fall. So we are spending the spring and the summer analyzing our old data and refining our predictions, and then we'll be starting up again come this next fall.

WHY DO YOU THINK IT'S ONLY IN THIS ONE PARTICULAR AREA YOU CAN SEE IN THE FALL?

This is what we have done with our computer simulations is try to use them to pinpoint where it is, and all of those simulations suggest that's the location where the forces are coming from.

WHAT IF IT'S NOT?

If it's not, then we'll have to figure out why we got these calculations wrong, but we're also—we will continue looking in the other parts of the sky, too. But I don't think it's going to be in the other parts of the sky. I think we're going to find it there in the fall.

BUT CAN YOU PHOTOGRAPH OTHER PARTS OF THE SKY AND HAVE OTHER PEOPLE LOOKING?

Absolutely. And at least a dozen different teams are trying to come up with their own ways of searching, too. So there are many people looking in many different, and sometimes very clever, ways. So I think we will scour the entire skies until we find this thing.

YOU WILL GO DOWN IN HISTORY AS THE ASTRONOMER WHO KNOCKED PLUTO OUT OF BEING A PLANET AND THEN DISCOVERED THE NINTH PLANET OUT SOMEWHERE NEAR THE OORT CLOUD!

I'm actually glad it worked out that way because if Pluto were still thought to be a planet, and then we found this new one, people would really be confused at what it means to be a planet. But now, when we find Planet 9, it is a massive planet in good standing, and I think people now understand that it's a substantial find, not just a tiny little thing. This is 5,000 times more massive than Pluto.

WHAT WAS YOUR ARGUMENT FOR WHY PLUTO HAD TO LOSE ITS STATUS AS A PLANET?

If you look at the solar system, it's very clear that the solar system is divided into a small number of truly massive objects, the planets, and then a huge number of tiny objects that are getting tossed around by the planets. They flit in and out of the orbits of the planets. They get ejected by the planets. Pluto's just one of these tiny objects.

THAT MAKES ALL OF THIS EVEN A LARGER IRONY. YOU END UP KNOCKING PLUTO OUT BUT FINDING THE NINTH PLANET!

Yeah. It is a remarkable chain of events. I definitely agree.

IF YOU CAN FIND PLANET 9 THIS YEAR OF 2017, AND YOU GO INTO THE HISTORY BOOKS FOREVER, WHAT WOULD BE THE NEXT MOST EXCITING ASTRONOMICAL CHALLENGE YOU WOULD LIKE TO TAKE ON?

I'm actually very excited about—once we find it, that's only the beginning of the job. And it's actually studying is what I'm most excited about. There are very few opportunities in history to have suddenly a new planet appear and then get to study it, learn about it, figure out where it came from. We can try to answer all these questions about how it got there. Understand what it really looks like. Understand what's been happening out there all these years. So I think understanding more and more about this Planet 9 is going to take many, many years, if not decades.

DO YOU MEAN THAT ONCE YOU HAVE ACTUALLY GOT A VISIBLE PHOTOGRAPH, AND YOU KNOW EXACTLY WHERE IT IS, THAT YOU CAN PUT THAT PRECISE DATA INTO THE COMPUTER SIMULATION AND YOU WILL SEE SORT OF PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE TRUTHS ABOUT ITS ORBIT?

It won't be quite as easy as that. But I think when we see it, we see the orbit, when we see what it's made out of, we see what kind of—if it has moons, if it has rings, you know, all these different things that we can learn about giant planets. I think we'll be able to start putting together stories about where it came from, how it got there, what sort of beast we're really looking at.”

 

Computer Simulations To Test
Mysterious Planet 9 Orbit

It’s strange that the huge gaseous Neptune-like Planet 9  would have such a strange, far out elliptical orbit around our sun. Speculation is that a passing star at the time the solar system formed might have pulled Planet 9 into the strange orbit.

Trying to figure it out, other scientists have run 156 computer simulations designed to see if a large rogue planet wandered into the edge of the Oort Cloud long ago, was it captured there by the gravity of our sun and planets?  Rogue planets either develop outside our solar system or around another star system and then somehow escape the original sun system and wander by themselves through space.

The computer simulators report that their Planet 9 simulations showed that 60% of the time when a rogue planet entered our solar system, it was able to leave and keep on going its solo path. But in 40% of cases where the rogue planet is captured by our sun and solar system, it remained in orbit in our system. Further, the computer simulations show that a rogue planet about the size of Neptune could orbit at the 1,000 Astronomical Units hypothesized for Planet 9.

 

Also see:

• 10/22/2016 — Is Our Sun's Mysterious 6-Degree Tilt Linked to A Huge 9th Planet?
• 01/29/2016 — Gravitational Evidence of 9th Planet 10 Times the Mass of Earth!
• 03/30/2007 — Fastest Orbiting Object in Our Solar System is One of Strangest
• 09/16/2005 — “Planet X” and the Kuiper Belt's Oddballs, "Santa" and "Easterbunny"


More Information:


How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming © 2012 by Mike Brown,
Ph.D., Prof. of Astronomy, Caltech, Pasadena, California. See Amazon.

For further information about Planet 9 and other mysteries in our solar system, please see reports in the Earthfiles Archive organized in chronological order from 1999 to 2016 ongoing of which a few are listed here.

• 10/22/2016 — Is Our Sun's Mysterious 6-Degree Tilt Linked to A Huge 9th Planet?
• 01/29/2016 — Gravitational Evidence of 9th Planet 10 Times the Mass of Earth!
• 07/01/2016 — Former NASA Engineer Says 5 Structured Domes in Moon Crater Photo Blacked Out
• 12/18/2015 — Spectroscopy of White Spots on Ceres “Probably” Magnesium Sulfate — So Is There “Briny Water-Ice” Underground?
• 10/29/2015 — Strangest Star Light Pattern in Milky Way Galaxy — Are There Megastructures Orbiting KIC 8462852?
• 09/04/2015 — Part 2: What Force On Dwarf Planet Ceres Could Push Up A 4-Mile Shiny, Grooved Mountain?
• 09/03/2015 — Part 1: Where Are New Images of “Bright Spots” On Ceres from Lower 900-Mile-Orbit?
• 08/09/2015 — New Data-Generated Images of Ceres Bright Spots and Pyramid Mountain
• 07/18/2015 — Pluto Has 2-Mile-High Ice Mountains, Plains of “Bubbling” Ice and “Wind Swept” Smudges. Weather? Heating Convection?
• 03/27/2015 — What Are the Bright Spots and Hexagonal Craters On Mysterious Ceres?
• 03/18/2015 — Persistent Dust Cloud and December 2014 Aurora On Mars Still Mysteries
• 08/04/2011 — Part 2: New Zealand Abductee Talks About Vesta Asteroid, “Fifth Planet” and Our “Time Slip?” Moon
• 08/05/2008 — Perchlorate Discovery by Phoenix Lander Does Not End Search for Life On Mars
• 03/28/2008 — Earth-Size Planet Beyond Pluto and Kuiper Belt?
• 03/11/2000 — Is 433 Eros Asteroid Younger Than Expected?


Websites:

"Why Is It Taking So Long To Figure Out Planet Nine?" January 21, 2017, Forbes.com: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jillianscudder/2017/01/21/astroquizzical-care-planet-nine/#56fa5a818ee7

"Simulations Suggest Planet Nine May Have Been A Rogue," January 12, 2017, Phys.org: https://phys.org/news/2017-01-simulations-planet-rogue.html

"Caltech Researchers Find Evidence of a Real Ninth Planet," January 20, 2016, Caltech News: https://www.caltech.edu/news/caltech-researchers-find-evidence-real-ninth-planet-49523

Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud, NASA: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/edu/pdfs/ss_kuiperbelt.pdf

Oort Cloud, Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oort_cloud


 

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