(ORDO NEWS) — Is it a giant planet five times the size of Earth or an apple-sized black hole?
Is there a ninth planet hiding behind Neptune’s orbit?
Astronomers have observed strange gravitational forces affecting clusters of bodies, known as “trans-Neptune objects”, or TNOs, which can be explained by the presence of a massive ninth planet in our solar system. A hypothetical planet called Planet X.
This is a controversial topic: some wrote off the strange behavior of TNO caused by the accumulation of much smaller cosmic bodies. Others predict that such a planet will be five times the mass of the Earth, orbiting our star about 400 times farther than the Earth.
Finally, it is likely that Planet X is actually a tiny black hole left over from the Big Bang. In fact, it is so tiny that its dimensions are only about five centimeters, and it is almost impossible to see with any telescope.
“There were many suggestions of alternative explanations for the anomalous orbits observed in the outer solar system,” explained Amir Siraj, a student at Harvard University. “One of the ideas put forward was the possibility that Planet X could be a black hole the size of a grapefruit, whose mass is five to ten times the mass of the Earth.”
So what then? In a new article in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, Siraj, together with a team of astronomers from Harvard University, outlined a newly developed method that could answer this question once and for all.
The plan is to look for accretion flashes emitted when a tiny black hole absorbs the substance surrounding it. If they find them, it will mean that Planet X is actually a black hole.
“In the immediate vicinity of the black hole, small bodies that approach it will melt as a result of heating from the background gas accretion,” Siraj said.
The team is betting on the upcoming Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) mission, which will be held at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile. The astronomers participating in the mission hope to answer questions about the nature of dark energy and dark matter, as well as the formation and properties of planets in our solar system.
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