Planet Nine

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Most people remember the demotion of Pluto to a dwarf planet in August of 2006, and the outrage that followed in abundance as a ripple across the world. As a general rule, humans love their ninth planet, an almost fierce overprotectiveness over the tiny once-planet. Although the buzz over Pluto has more than passed, there might be a new ninth planet taking form – though it definitely does not have Pluto’s small stature.

With a size that “is probably 5 to 10 times the size of Earth” according to LiveScience, Planet Nine has a large enough mass to cause “patterns of objects in the Kuiper Belt, a ring of debris in the outer solar system.” These strange groupings are what originally spawned the theory back in 2014. However, although the chance is high (a 499 out of 500 chance, according to The Astronomical Journal), the space – pun unintended – with which to look is rather large, considering the planet is somewhere on the outer ring. In fact, only recently has research indicated it is a bit closer than what was originally thought.

In an article on Phys Org, a writer for the California Institute of Technology writes, “’At five Earth masses, Planet Nine is likely to be very reminiscent of a typical extrasolar super-Earth,’ says Batygin, an assistant professor of planetary science and Van Nuys Page Scholar. Super-Earths are planets with a mass greater than Earth’s, but substantially less than that of a gas giant. ‘…Planet Nine is going to be the closest thing we will find to a window into the properties of a typical planet of our galaxy.’”

Still, the possibility that the alleged Planet Nine does not exist is still real. In this case, the patterns found in the Kuiper Belt could still be explained by self-contained gravitational fields. However, the researchers behind it – and more specifically, Batygin – have faith in its existence and cite a belief of laying digital eyes on it within the next decade. Although questionably true, the idea of a planet hidden within humanity’s solar system but just out of reach is undoubtedly an exciting prospect.