(ORDO NEWS) — In 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) stripped Pluto of planetary status and downgraded it to a dwarf planet, so today we live in a solar system with eight full-fledged planets.
However, this “injustice” may soon be corrected, as astronomers believe that the real Ninth planet of the solar system can still be discovered. Note that her search has been going on for six years.
Mysterious and hypothetical planet
The idea of the existence of the ninth planet arose as a result of many years of observations of small celestial bodies in the far corners of the solar system.
These objects are monitored for several reasons:
- Understand the history of the formation of the solar system
- Test computer models
- Assess them as potential threats to the Earth
By studying the orbits of these objects, astronomers have found that they differ from what they would expect, suggesting something is gravitationally affecting them.
By looking at the differences between the predicted and observed orbits, it was possible to determine the approximate mass, distance and location of this hypothetical object.
Scientists estimate that the mass of the object is between 5 and 10 Earth masses, and its orbit is at a distance of 400 to 800 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun. Recall that one a.u. is the average distance from the Sun to the Earth, which is 149,597,870,700 meters.
Such a noticeable scatter of parameters is due to the fact that models can be adapted for different planets: heavier, which is further away, or lighter, which is closer. Of course, it is also possible that we are dealing with two or even more smaller bodies.
Persistent search for truth
So, the available data was enough to start targeted searches using various telescopes directed deep into the solar system.
Although it may seem paradoxical, it is much easier to observe distant stars and even galaxies than in your own backyard.
The fact is that distant places are very bright, since the stars that live there illuminate nearby regions, which cannot be said about the distant regions of our solar system.
In fact, this hypothetical planet is so far away that sunlight is unlikely to reflect off its surface. The predicted distance also makes that object (or objects) very cold, reducing any infrared radiation it may emit.
For this reason, the search is carried out mainly in the millimeter range using the Atakama Large Millimeter [Antenna] Array (ALMA) radio telescope complex.
Over the past six years, the ALMA complex has scanned 87% of the available sky, finding more than 3,500 candidates, but none of them have yet been confirmed. Once this is done, a similar search should be carried out in the northern hemisphere.
However, even when we scan the entire sky, only about 10-20% of the opportunities will be used, and the search will have to be repeated over and over again with different telescopes at different wavelengths.
However, the luck factor is not excluded, and there is a possibility that the Ninth planet will be found before scientists implement all these complex procedures.
Does the ninth planet exist? Time will tell. In the meantime, we can continue to debate whether Pluto should be returned to planetary status .
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