- Astronomers release the results of their six-year survey of the outer solar system
- Search finds 815 trans-Neptunian objects, 461 reported for the first time
- Further study of their orbit may reveal more about a hypothesized ninth planet.
More than 800 small objects have been detected beyond Neptune in a discovery that could help identify the hypothesized planet in our solar system, known as Planet Nine.
Researchers have reported the results of a six-year survey to map the outer solar system, called the Dark Energy Survey (DES), using a telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory high in the Chilean Andes .
Their discovery has yielded 815 trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs), with 461 objects reported for the first time in a new one. pre-print research paper.
TNOs are so called because they are further than any minor planet or dwarf planet in the Solar System with an orbit beyond Neptune.
Further study of their movements and orbit could potentially reveal the gravitational influence of Neptune, the ninth official planet after Planet Nine.
It was only last month that another team of experts plotted the possible location of Planet Nine, which lies some 46.5 billion miles from the Sun.
Planet Nine, with 10 times the mass of Earth, located beyond the dwarf planet Pluto, is the Holy Grail among many astronomers. Painted, artist’s impression of the fictional planet
Dark Energy Survey (DES)
The Dark Energy Survey is a Southern Hemisphere observational project designed to investigate the acceleration of the universe that began in 2013.
The international, collaborative effort aims to map millions of galaxies, detect thousands of supernovae, and find patterns of cosmic structure that will reveal the nature of the mysterious dark energy that is accelerating the expansion of our universe.
Astronomers are using a highly sensitive 570-megapixel digital camera, DECam, mounted on the Blanco 4-meter telescope in Chile, to conduct the survey.
This new research is led by Dr. Pedro Bernardinelli in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Pennsylvania.
The primary purpose of DES is to measure the accelerated rate of cosmic expansion based on data from millions of galaxies.
But this paper reports TNO – much closer to home – on cosmic events based on six years of data captured between 2013 and 2019.
‘An important detail is that when you take an image of the sky, you see not only what you are looking for, but you also see other things that are in the same region of the sky that are closer to or closer to the sky. may be ahead. Your goal,’ said Dr. Bernardinelli universe today.
‘That’s why we get to see anything from airplanes to asteroids to TNOs, as well as stars and distant galaxies. So we use the data to find other things – in my case, TNO.’
TNO is thought to be composed of a mixture of rock, amorphous carbon and volatile ice such as water and methane.
They are believed to be remnants from the formation of the Solar System.
Their current orbital distribution is thought to be the result of the migration of the giant planets – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune – into their current orbits.
If it does exist, Planet Nine is surpassing both Neptune and Pluto, which was classified as a dwarf planet in 2006 as a planet.
What about Pluto?
Pluto is not a planet, but a dwarf planet.
In 2006, the International Astronomical Union, a global group of astronomy experts, established a definition of a planet that required it to ‘clear’ its orbit – in other words, to have the greatest gravitational force in its orbit.
Since Neptune’s gravity affects its neighboring planet Pluto, and Pluto shares its orbit with the frozen gases and objects in the Kuiper Belt, this means that Pluto was out of position as a planet.
They probably launched these objects after Neptune as they migrated. Dr Bernardinelli said astronomers can study TNOs to detect such events.
‘By collecting data on hundreds of these objects, we get to ask all kinds of questions, like “How fast did Neptune migrate?” (Our data shows a preference for slow migration) or “Is there a ninth planet hiding in the outskirts of the Solar System?”, he said.
‘Our data does not show the expected signal, but that doesn’t mean we dismiss the idea of Planet Nine.’
Planet Nine was first theorized by Caltech experts in 2014 when they observed that TNOs behave unusually.
The farthest orbits of these TNOs—which are 250 times further from the Sun than Earth—all point in the same direction.
Astronomers still claim that this can be explained by the gravitational pull of the ninth planet in our solar system that orbits 20 times more distant from our Sun than Neptune.
However, to date, astronomers have only circumstantial evidence for the existence of Planet Nine.
An alternative hypothesis is that there is not a giant planet, but that the imbalance is due to the combined gravitational effects of much smaller objects.
This was put forward in May 2020 by researchers who suggested that the elusive Planet Nine may be nothing more than a mirage.
He proposed that this is ‘mass gravity’, a massive disk of icy debris that contains millions of smaller bodies.
If it exists, Planet Nine is in the outer reaches of our own solar system, beyond the Kuiper Belt, the doughnut-shaped ring of icy objects that extends beyond the orbit of Neptune.
Another team of researchers reported in December last year that Planet Nine may have formed at its origin in the inner Solar System and then fell out of interaction with Jupiter.
Planet Nine: Objects’ Orbits Beyond Neptune Show That ‘Something Is Big’
Astronomers believe that the orbits of many objects in the distant regions of the Solar System have been disrupted.