Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Our Solar System Might Actually Have a 9th Planet

earthsky.org
It was a disappointing moment in 2006 when scientists decided that Pluto is not a planet. However it turns out that even with the loss of Pluto’s status as a planet, we still might have nine planets in our solar system. This planet has not yet been found, but scientists in multiple countries are racing to find Planet 9. When the planet is spotted there will be no debate about it being an actual planet like there was a debate for Pluto because it is estimated to be ten times the size of Earth which would definitely not make it a dwarf planet. Scientists have not been able to find this planet for so long due to its “bizarre elongated orbit” according to Caltech astronomers. One orbit around the Sun takes up to 20,000 years for Planet 9. If it took us this long to find Planet 9 there could maybe even be a Planet 10.
Questions:
1. Do you think this new planet is just a false alarm?
2. Why do you think it is taking so long for astronomers to find this planet?

Sources:
http://earthsky.org/space/solid-evidence-for-a-9th-planet-say-caltech-astronomers

4 comments:

Anna Joshi said...

Although this idea of a new planet is still a theory, after reading the article, I wouldn’t be surprised if astronomers ended up finding concrete evidence of its existence in the future. Dr. Brown and the other astronomers who spotted this object outside of the Kuiper belt have come up with computer simulations that back up their theory of a ninth planet. I think it took so long for astronomers to come up with this notion of a ninth planet because no one was really looking for it since they thought that beyond the belt was just empty space. Now that this object is on their radar, it seems that they are focusing their efforts to confirm that it is what they think it is; according to this article, “Dr. Brown said that he had begun searching for the planet, and that he thought he would be able to find it within five years.” I am curious as to whether the technology for astronomers is advancing at as fast a rate as technology in our daily lives, since I would assume it would be hard to quickly better telescopes to see billions and billions of miles away?

Scott Liu said...

I agree with Anna that the existence of this ninth planet is highly probable due to the extensive research done by Dr. Brown and Konstantin Batygin and their colleagues at Caltech. The various simulations done to examine the strange activity beyond the Kuiper belt can be explained by a ninth planet about ten times the size of earth that orbits in an abnormal way around the sun every 10,000-20,000 years. I believe that the reason we have not discovered such a planet is because we have not been looking for it. Additionally, its odd orbit and far distance have obscured its location. The technology to discover such a planet exists; however, the constraint is its obscurity. From an article by Eric Hand, he cites planetary scientist, Dave Jewitt who states that "the 0.007% chance that the clustering of the six objects is coincidental gives the planet claim a statistical significance of 3.8 sigma—beyond the 3-sigma threshold typically required to be taken seriously, but short of the 5 sigma that is sometimes used in fields like particle physics." In other words, the planet is still statistically significant but there is a chance that it might not matter because many 3-sigma threshold discoveries have disappeared before.

I am interested to know how much money has been dedicated towards this research. Are people opposed to investing such money in this kind of research? Should we be investing in more domestic issues?

I am amused at the attention that has surfaced around this theory. Also, the news articles about this event are quite dramatic. For example, Discovery News stated "this planet is bonkers" and many other articles emphasize how nations are racing to discover this colossal new planet.

Sources: http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/20/us/possible-ninth-planet/
http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/01/feature-astronomers-say-neptune-sized-planet-lurks-unseen-solar-system
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVK2Tv209hU

- Scott Liu (Period 2)

Meghan Hilbert said...

I agree with Anna. It is very possible that Planet 9 is in fact real. Many countries across the world, especially the U.S. have come a very long way, spending millions of dollars, and putting in many hours to have the technology and capability to figure these mysteries out that we have today. If astronomers can make assumptions that there are more planets, it's likely that there is one. According to an Australian astronomer in this article, http://www.news.com.au/technology/science/space/excited-australian-astronomers-gearing-up-to-start-search-for-elusive-planet-nine/news-story/121d7d372a5c1969366416973c1feb77, it's extremely likely that this mysterious planet could have been missed.
I think it took so long for astronomers to discover this planet because lets face it, outer space is larger then we can imagine. There are thousands of unknown planets in the universe, miles and miles farther than our technology could ever reach. Also, some areas of space have no way to reach sunlight, so it's possible this planet was tucked away from some sort of light or moon that is usually detected.

Annika Olives said...

If Plant Nine does exist, it would be only the third planet to be discovered since ancient times. I guess that's why there's a lot of hype around it right now, because it's a really big deal to astronomers at the very least.

This sort of reminds me of the second main point Obama had in his SOTU speech about how we can use technology to improve our world and how we should reignite our spirit of innovation. I'm sure finding a new planet was not what he had in mind, but, like Scott was saying, where is the money for this research coming from? The professors who suspect the planet exists are from Caltech, a private research university that garners most of its money from donations, but will there be federal funding to try and find Planet Nine? Does it even matter what country finds it at this point?

https://www.caltech.edu/news/caltech-researchers-find-evidence-real-ninth-planet-49523