A ninth planet in our solar system may have just been discovered

Data collected in 1983 shows signs of what a British astronomer believes is possible proof of a ninth planet in our solar system. The news could bring some comfort to people who are still devastated by Pluto’s demotion to dwarf planet status.

Michael Rowan-Robinson, a leading astronomer and emeritus professor of astrophysics at Imperial College London, has discovered that data collected by an early space telescope shows a possible candidate for the ninth planet theory. The data was taken from historical observations made by the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS), launched in 1983. It was the first orbiting observatory to examine the entire night sky in the infrared spectrum.

Possible proof of a ninth planet found in old data

Artist’s impression of the IRAS space telescope in orbit around the Earth. Image source: JPL / NASA

Rowan-Robinson decided to look back at the data from the 10-month IRAS mission to see if anything in the data had not been discovered. The professor paid special attention to objects moving slowly between one observation and another. This allowed him to rule out any rapidly moving bodies, such as comets or asteroids. Rowan-Robinson says the changes in position for the planetary candidates would have been due to parallax, as the Earth rotated around the sun, causing the IRAS to change in angle.

The astronomer has examined hundreds of sources in the data, however, three sightings made in June, July and September 1983 captured most of his interest. Observations suggest the new planet could be three to five times the size of Earth. It could orbit the sun about 225 times the distance from our home planet.

The ongoing search for planet nine

The planet Neptune captured by the Hubble Space Telescope. Image source: NASA / ESA / STScI / MH Wong (University of California, Berkeley) / LA Sromovsky / PM Fry (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Unfortunately, Rowan-Robinson admitted in a recent research paper that the observations are not of high quality. This is because the region of the sky in which they were captured is made up of filaments of gas called cirrus clouds. These cloud-like gases make it difficult to read the observations clearly. He also noted that a recent survey of the sky by Pan-STARRS telescopes in Hawaii failed to record the object. This could suggest that the ninth planet he thought he had discovered is not real.

He also recommended that astronomers check the orbits of dwarf planets beyond Pluto. These checks could possibly explain the sightings he witnessed.

“The candidate is in an orbit that is totally incompatible with our predictions for planet nine, and would not be able to gravitationally disturb the distant solar system in the way we have suggested. But, of course, that doesn’t mean it’s not real, ”noted Mike Brown, a planetary scientist, in a report. series of tweets.

“It just means that it would be a chance discovery of something during the search for Planet Nine. Pluto happened the same way. Tombaugh was looking for Lowell’s planet X (which did not exist) and accidentally found Pluto. Pluto. was not the predicted planet X.

Space continues to provide us with new mysteries to explore. Recently, scientists discovered that an asteroid could be a fragment of the moon. For now, however, the ninth planet – if it exists – continues to elude us.

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