Our Solar System May Have a New Planet That Gas Giants Pushed Away, Say Scientists
The Earth might have a ninth sibling, and I don’t mean Pluto. A new study suggests that our solar system may have been home to another planet — a yet undiscovered body tentatively titled ‘Planet 9.’
Published in the Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, this study posits that over the years, Planet 9 may have gone missing or been pushed away by the four gas giants — Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, or Neptune. Thus kicked out of its orbit, scientists suspect Planet 9 has since been lurking in our solar system’s outer reaches.
If you think this sounds like an interplanetary reenactment of Mean Girls bullying their classmates, you’re not alone. “The theory makes sense on its face: Jupiter is kind of known as a bully, after all,” Popular Mechanics reported.
Scientists have theorized in the past that we don’t have more rocky planets or even gas dwarves because, well, Jupiter “ate” them. Apparently, the planet ingests anything that comes too close to it.
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What prompted the scientists to investigate the existence of another planet in the solar system was their refusal to accept that the four gas giants would exist in a row, and then, well, nothing after that. The researchers believed something was missing in our present-day understanding of the solar system’s configuration. “It seems unlikely that nature created four giant planet cores, but then nothing else larger than dwarf planets in the outer solar system,” the study notes.
This led them to run simulations of the solar system’s evolution, which couldn’t explain its current configuration either.
“Logic suggests there should be some planets of other sizes, and their simulations back them up. Adding another Earth-or-Mars-sized planet to the outer solar system, perhaps between two of the gas giants, produces a more accurate model — at least during the early stages of development,” Bob Yirka, a science reporter, wrote.
Well, now that we’ve established ‘planet wars’ are real, the next thing I want to know is whether ‘Planet 9’ is. There may be a way to find that out in the future, experts think. They believe powerful telescopes, currently under construction, can help us confirm the existence of Earth’s long-lost sibling.