Is there another planet in the solar system?

By Phil Plait | March 13, 2008 1:16 pm

Could there be another planet lurking in the dark, frigid outskirts of the solar system?

This isn’t as silly as it seems at first. No, I’m not talking Nibiru or any of that other nonsense (and it is nonsense), I’m talking about an actual planet, Earth-sized or so, that could be orbiting the Sun well beyond Pluto Neptune.

Why would we think there might be one out there?

We see some stars in the midst of forming planets. The stars are surrounded by thick disks of material, and in some we can actually see gaps in the disk, dark rings like the gaps in Saturn’s rings, that we think are due to forming planets gobbling up material in the ring. You’d think the disk would fade away with distance form the star, like our air gets thinner with altitude. But some disks appear to have sharp outer edges. This can be caused by a planet orbiting outside the disk; its gravity sweeps up the material and over time cleans up everything farther out. In one disk, this sharp boundary indicates a planet 200 AU out (an AU is the distance of the Earth to the Sun, about 150 million kilometers or 93 million miles).

Neptune orbits at 30 AU from the Sun, so 200 AU is a long way out. Could a planet like that have formed in our solar system? Maybe. Thing is, while our proto-planetary disk has been gone for billions of years, we do have lots of objects out past Neptune: the Trans-Neptunian Objects (they have lots of names, including Kuiper Belt Objects). These are basically giant balls of ice, some hundreds of miles across. As a group they form a puffy disk of objects stretching from Neptune’s orbit outward… but they seem to abruptly stop past about 50 AU out from the Sun. That’s called the Kuiper Cliff, the cause of which is unknown. Incidentally, it’s not because they’re too faint to see (that is, they’re there but we can’t spot them); at that distance we should have spotted lots of them by now.

Not only that, but a lot of these objects have orbits that are tilted more and are more elliptical than you’d expect if they just formed a long time ago and were left alone. Theyir orbits don’t bring them in very close — they tend to stay outside of Neptune’s orbit — but again, this is something that needs to be explained.

Could it be that there is another massive planet orbiting the Sun, way out there, which has swept up the objects gravitationally, creating the Kuiper Cliff and tossing the iceballs into tilted, oval orbits?

A newly released paper shows that may very well be the case. A team of scientists ran a whole mess of simulations, and found that a small planet (in this case, around half the size of the Earth) could have formed inside Neptune’s orbit (where there was plenty of material in the early solar system), gotten tossed into a bigger orbit by Neptune, and then knocked around the orbits of the iceballs, distorting their orbits and creating the Kuiper Cliff.

This idea is not new, but this new research is a provocative indicator of such a planet’s likelihood of existence. I’m not saying it’s out there, but it’s worth looking for. In fact, I’ve been saying that since about 1998 or so, when I worked on Hubble and was involved with a project that found a truncated disk around another star. I even worked with another astronomer on the team to investigate whether the robotic telescopes used to look for Near Earth Asteroids could spot such a planet.

It’s not all that easy. It wouldn’t be too faint to see, necessarily, but it’s a big sky. At that distance, the planet would move slowly, and the orbital motion would be hard to distinguish given the procedures used by NEA searches. We tried to convince some of them to modify their software to look for Planet X (yes, why not, though now it would be Planet IX), but we were met with mixed success. The fact that no one has discovered this planet shows you that this is still hard to do.

But maybe, just maybe, with this new research we’ll get people looking more seriously. It’s amazing to me that we can understand so much about galaxies and hugely distant objects, but find that there may be surprises waiting for us in our own back yard.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Science

Comments (108)

  1. TheBlackCat

    Thank you for that mature and well-reasoned response.

  2. Thats very grown up of you anthony.

  3. Planet X IX may exist, and we’re gay?

    Pffffft.

  4. Aerimus

    Just goes to show that people named Anthony are morons.

  5. I’ve only skimmed the paper over, but:

    I’m dubious of these findings. It’s traditionally been quite difficult to build larger bodies in that region of the solar system due to slow speeds, low surface density, and large Hill radii to body radii ratios. It’s not impossible, but difficult. The size-distribution of existing KBOs doesn’t really suggesting an ~1 Earth-mass body is likely, for example.

    Mostly, this seems like a “well, it *could* happen* paper more than a “this probably happened.” Interesting and useful science, to be sure. And this doesn’t mean it’s not worth looking for the putative planet, but I think that we also need to bear in mind the odds of it existing when we budget time and resources to the task.

  6. I would think, since we have explored just a fraction of our local system, that there could very well be other planets orbiting the sun. I mean, look how far out the heliopause is? Now, granted that we could be talking a natural-born planet of the sun, or a rogue that was captured by the sun’s gravity well.

    We’re talking something way out there, and with who knows what type of albedo, so it’s not going to “jump” out in an image. And, like Phil says, it’s going to move really slow across the sky.

    Of course, we all know how to find “planet X.” Just ask Duck Dodgers!

  7. Mark Martin

    He meant to say we’re all “gray”, as in older and wiser than he.

    So- is there some expectation as to the brightness of such an object? The Hipparcos satellite precisely measured objects down to 11th magnitude. If Planet IX is brighter than that, its parallax due to Earth’s orbit would easily be recorded within the satellite’s database.

  8. dkary

    On a first skim I find this one interesting, though it would be even more interesting if we could constrain the orbit a little better. The sort of statistics of eccentricity and inclination arguements used here are much better at showing that something once was around to stir things up rather than telling you if that something is still there. On the other hand, if you could find something like obvious resonance forcing within the kuiper belt: the sort of thing that doesn’t fit with any known planets, then you could start constraining the orbit period and maybe even the solar longitude. Then you might have a change to know where to start looking instead of relying on broad surveys to stuble on it.

    Of course, it would be interesting to hear what folks like Renu Malhotra have to say about their critiques of earlier models and their ability to match the observed orbit distributions.

  9. dkary

    To Mark Martin: If it was 11th magnitude it would have been found decades ago. I had the impression they’re talking about high teens or 20s.

  10. Kevin, it’s possible, but it seems unlikely. Capturing a body from another star is actually pretty difficult. You need a way to dissipate the energy. For a planet, this can be done with atmosphere or multi-body effects. For the Sun, atmosphere is pretty well out and in the outer solar system (Oort cloud region) there are so few bodies that I’m not sure you’d expect any captures at all in the age of the solar system. I suppose galactic “tides” can help you, but I’m not sure that they’d act quickly enough.

    Now, it’s possible to fling material out into that region, but it has to form in our part of the solar system. Based on what we see here, an Earth-sized body seems to be a stretch. Also, the fact that the comet size distribution doesn’t seem to go out that far causes similar concerns for me. (Granted, we could be talking about a rare, stochastic event. But that always makes astronomers nervous to talk about without a lot of evidence.)

    There’s certainly material out there, but Earth-sized? That’s the rub.

  11. KC

    OTOH this does explain the drop-off. Yes, it’s still a “could happen” situation, but the drop-off seems to give it more weight. Yes, this could be a 21st century repeat of the hunt for planet Vulcan, but even if we find nothing, isn’t that of value as well? That assuming we don’t find anything else while we go planet hunting.

    While we’re on the subject of “could happen,” what if there was a way for amateur astronomers to participate in a huge distributed telescope? There would have to be some equipment standards, such as size, a computer-controlled mount, etc. all connected to the Internet. It probably wouldn’t be enough to hunt for Planet IX, but it still might be of some value. Or is this a pipe dream?

  12. Spock's Brain

    Bear in mind that the Ixians in “Dune” were from a planet originally called IX, making it nearly certain that such a planet exists.

    (And Anthony, thank you for acknowledging my sexual orientation–but I believe you are incorrect in your assertion that ALL of the members of this community have the honor of being gay. Plait, for example, is a notorious breeder.)

  13. David D.G.

    Actually, if you want to find Planet X, all you need to do is follow planets A, B, C, and so on until you come to Planet X. It worked for Duck Dodgers.

    ~David D.G.

  14. tacitus

    I suspect that most of the planet hunting resources are too occupied with finding exoplanets to be bothered about the long shot of detecting Planet IX. It would mean instant immortality to the person or team who did find it, but the scientific value of finding it would be limited when compared with the task of building an accurate description of the planetary population in our corner of the galaxy.

  15. Celtic_Evolution

    Interesting reading… on first glance I agree with John Weiss that my first reaction is this is more of a “could happen” than anything that outright supports any liklihood that it is happening. And I don’t really think Phil was making the point to support that he thinks it actually IS happening. I think he’s making the argument that the science supports that such a thing could happen and does happen in simulations at least some of the time.

    Although, what a cool “could happen” scenario.

    On a side note… anyone care to make a guess at how many posts in we get before the inevitable “OH, so PlanetX IS real. SEE We knew it all along… Phil, you’re a fraud, blah blah blah” crap from the woo-woo sect?

    I’m putting my money on about 30. :)

  16. Michelle

    You know… Planet IX… I like the sound of that. At least that one might actually be based on actual science and the name smacks me as much cooler than the overused “Planet X”.

    Hopefully they will find something someday. It’s incredible how many mysteries there is in our own “backyard”

  17. Two things:

    1) Don’t respond to trolls, please. I delete their posts or mark them as spam.

    2) I’m not saying there is a planet out there, I’m saying there are indications there might be, and it’s worth looking for.

  18. andy

    It’s interesting that studies of dust discs come up with quite a bit of evidence for planets at very large distances from their stars, including worlds of jovian mass, but direct imaging surveys for these objects indicate that (large) planets are rare in the outer regions of star systems.

    Not sure about this but isn’t the X in “Planet X” supposed to represent unknown, c.f. the X in “X-rays”, rather than the Roman numeral for 10?

  19. baley

    @andy it’s normal that we can’t find exoplanets in distant orbits from their host star. That’s is cause most of the methods we use are biased towards big and close orbit starts. Particularly with the radial velocity you have to look for several planet revolutions before confirming the planet find and we haven’t been looking for that long.

  20. Celtic_Evolution

    I’m curious… if we were to endeavour to find such a body out at that distance, what method currently at our disposal would be best equipped to find it? Hubble or similar telescopic method? Indirect detection methods?

  21. tacitus: The techniques used to find such a planet in our system are pretty different from techniques used to find exoplanets, so I don’t think that there’s any more conflict between the two for resources than there are between any other astronomical observations.

    KC: If by “drop-off” you mean the apparent edge of the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt, then I don’t think that explaining it is very novel. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen simulations from Hal Levison et al. that also explain such an edge pretty well. Actually, I’m not really clear on what this model explains that Hal’s crew can’t explain without the extra planet. I’m kind of eager to hear his views on this.

  22. andy

    baley – I am perfectly aware of the limitations of RV surveys. If you read what I had written, I specifically referred to direct imaging surveys for exoplanets, for which the bias is young planets (so they give out enough radiation to be detectable) at large separations (so you can separate them out from the host stars).

  23. 1. What the heck did this Anthony fellow say that’s got everyone in such an uproar? His comment may be gone, but my curiousity remains.

    2. IF we ever do find this mysterious new planet, can we name it Pluto? For old times’ sake? Pretty please?

  24. Andy C

    Phil,

    If we assume that there is such a planet out at about 200 AU, I wonder how that would impact our definition of the solar system.

    It is my understanding that one definition of where our solar system ends and the interstellar medium begins is given by the location of the heliopause, at about 100 AU (this seems to be the most widely quoted of a fairly wide range of figures – I haven’t seen anything as high as 200 AU).

    Even if it is orbiting the sun, could we really claim that a planet in the ISM is part of the solar system?

    If being gravitationally bound to the sun is a sufficient (rather than necessary) criterion for being declared part of our solar system, how big might our solar system become?

    Irrespective, an interesting post, as ever!

  25. The Barber of Civility

    How about naming it Plaito?

  26. The Barber of Civility

    Anyone living on it would be a Plaitophil. (Or anyone loving it.)

  27. Troy

    Excellent heads up. One thing you didn’t mention is there are gaps in the asteroid belt caused by our good friend Jupiter, a good analog to what you’re proposing for the Kuiper belt. The cliff must have a reason, planet or something else. My understanding is that orbital velocities in the Kuiper belt are too feeble to accrete large bodies but there’s always the possibility of interplanetary migrations, this has been a big finding from the extrasolar planets out there.

  28. Michelle

    @Lugosi: It was just a troll. Usually best to just ignore ‘em like the BA said just a bit over there.

  29. MandyDax

    If it ends up being a twin of Earth (or the third triplet of Earth and Venus), can we name it Mondas, or is that just asking for trouble? ;D

  30. This isn’t new. The cliff at the edge of the Kuiper Belt, as well as the dynamics necessary to form the Kuiper Belt, require at LEAST thirty Earth masses in the vicinity.

  31. tacitus

    John: The techniques used to find such a planet in our system are pretty different from techniques used to find exoplanets, so I don’t think that there’s any more conflict between the two for resources than there are between any other astronomical observations.

    Yeah, I’m aware of the differences, but I was thinking more of where finite time and resources will be allocated. Unless there is some way to piggyback the search for an outer planet onto another ongoing survey, I doubt there will be much of an effort put into finding one. Exoplanet hunting is far sexier at the moment and will win every time in any competition for funding or resources.

  32. I, for one, welcome our new Plaitophilian overlords.

    Pluto may have lost its planetary status but it didn’t lose its name.

  33. Crux Australis

    If we name the new one Pluto, what would we rename Pluto to?

  34. Sili

    Ix-nay on the anetplay Ex-ay.

  35. davidlpf

    Don’t empttay me lisiay.

  36. Pat

    Phil, let’s not sugar coat it. The Bad Astronomer is attempting, in his way, to apologize and, yes, beg forgiveness of the grand and glorious planet Nibiru, a sentient orbiting body that can choose or not choose to destroy us in 2012 when it brings its chain of black hole remnants streaming behind it into the inner solar system. Learn from the dinosaurs, who failed to follow Phil’s repentant example and obsequiate now!

    By the way, Nibiru now likes to be called “Pluto II” because its a lot cooler and implies that its rich somehow.

  37. Very well formed post, enjoyed the read as well!

  38. Many machines on Ix. New machines.

  39. Dilbert

    Planet X is not going to be called Pluto, Pluto II or any such.

    It will be called Nibiru. Not because that is what Terran astronomers decide to name it. We’ll call it Nibiru because the Anunnaki will insist.

  40. StevoR

    Hey, Pluto’s *still* a planet – dwarf planets are every bit as much planets as the so-called “classical” + ones – and should be counted still.

    As far as I’m concerned, the IAU can take a long walk off a short jetty…
    ;-)

    I thought one idea explaining the abrupt edge to the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt was that our Sun was a bit close to a massive O or early B type star and that its protoplanetary disk was therefore abraded or eroded by the stellar winds from that star or stars?

  41. StevoR

    D’oh forgot to add :

    + “classical” in the nonsensical IAU’s awful new definition sense ratehr than properly “classical” as in the planets known in the ‘classical’ ages ie. ancientGreek-Babylonian-Incan etc .. times. That older and more apt and useful useof classicla includes just the five ‘wanderers’ (planets) visible with unaided eyesight – Venus, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury and Saturn.

    (Now Ok Ouranos is also sometimes just barely visible to the unaided eye but is really a bit too faint & slow-moving to properly count – at least the Greeks never noticed it.;-) )

    I really hope the next IAU meeting overturns their last ‘Planetary definition’ decisionand restores Pluto, adds Eris, Cerse and Charon (among others – &why not!) and thereby also restores sanity!

  42. StevoR

    Argh! Typos! I blame the 40 degrees Celsius heat – & the ten previous days of it here in Adelaide, South Oz … (Don’t ask what that is in Fahrenheit, I could never convert .. F unlike o’c [or Kelvin] makes little if any sense to me ..)

    ————— corrected from above :

    + “classical” in the nonsensical IAU’s awful new definition sense rather than properly “classical” as in the unaided-eye planets known back in the ‘classical’ ages. Ie. ancient Greek-Babylonian-Incan etc .. times.

    That older, more apt and more useful use of the term ‘classical’ includes just the five ‘wanderers’ (planets) visible with unaided eyesight – Venus, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury and Saturn.

    ——————–

    Also – if I understand things right there cannot be any “proper” (or “classical” + or new) planets found beyond Neptune because of the absurdity of the IAU’s ruling – even if the planet is three or ten times as big and massive as _Jupiter_ they’d _still_ be obliged to call it a Trans-Neptunian object or suchlike! Now how silly is that? :-(

  43. StevoR

    Incidentally, when ‘Astronomy Now’ magazine (UK-based, a good mag!)came up with & called for readers to help list of the “7 wonders of the universe” one of my suggestions was to include Pluto & Charon as one “wonder of the solar system” – a double planet! 8)

  44. Morgan Loy

    Speaking of extra solar planets, what chance is there that a planet IX stayed in the solar system rather then being ejected by Neptune or a close encounter with another star? Since the outer boundary planets in these forming stars are too distant to be directly observed we can’t know if the originator is still around; and at 200AU the gravitatonal attraction to Sol must be pretty weak.
    Also what do you call a planet that has been ejected from a planetary system? An exo-exoplanet?

  45. You only hear about that kind of thing in the movies

  46. Just a minor remark: there is a typo in your blog.

    “Theyir” should be “Their”…

    For the rest: love reading the blog!

  47. Phil-M

    If the planet has a large enough mass, could not the internal energy of the planet make for some interesting chemistry for a world so far from the sun?

  48. sirjonsnow

    Aren’t we all forgetting about Gor? ;)

  49. Would a planet of 0.5 Earth masses at 50 AUs or more be able to retain hydrogen? If so, the opacity from a really thick H2 atmosphere might lead to liquid-water temperatures at the surface, and even life on our Planet XII (I count Ceres, Pluto and Eris as planets, darn it).

    I’m going from a paper by a guy named Stevenson or Stephenson c. 1997, about planets ejected from planetary systems — “free planets.”

    Some time in the near future, I’m going to get out my Jeans atmospheric escape equation and so on and see if I can make this quantitative. Anyone else is, of course, welcome to try as well.

    Refutation as well as development would be welcome; I just want to know.

  50. deptaro

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  51. John

    Might explain the anomalies found in voyager’s journey.

  52. Arcturian

    Didn’t Mike Brown write a few years ago that he expected that at least Mars-sized objects would be found beyond the orbit of Eris? It’s not far-fetched, and at 200 AUs and at highly tilted and/or elliptical orbits such objects could (and would) have escaped detection so far.

    I’d think that for an Earth-sized planet at such distances a single orbit would take so many hundreds of years that it’s movement through the sky would be difficult observe, especially being a reflecting planet, instead of a light-emitting object. I’m not well-versed in the math, but as our sun’s light fades exponentially as it goes farther out, wouldn’t a Pluto-like object at 200 AU, assuming a mirror-like albedo of near 1, be atleast 100 times dimmer than such an object at 100 AU, and 1000 times dimmer than at 10 AU? And if it’s coal black for some reason (carbon on the surface), such an object could avoid detection for centuries to come, assuming no Kuiper-belt mission other than New Horizons are sent. And I don’t remember NH being a detection mission, but an exploration mission, so NH won’t find any new objects (unless by sheer luck), but explore already detected objects.

    I don’t think you could currently resolve the disc of the object even if it was ten times the diameter of Pluto or Eris, but I might be wrong. Somebody more versed in the math can calculate how wide the disc of such an object would be as seen from Earth and plug that into the resolution of telescopes currently used to search for such distant objects.

  53. Phildo

    Great. IT ISN”T Planet X but it is a X type planet. This space fascist from the wine country is such a joke. No wonder no one believes in mainstream science any more. They are so disallusioned by their granduer and degrees that they can’t accept alternative theories nor fresh ideas. SCIENCE is the new religion. They are no different than the catholic church. MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY

  54. “We see some stars in the midst of forming planets.”

    This is one of the things that has always bothered me most and I don’t know why. Why is it that scientists say things like that or say they found a “new” solar system that’s creating planets?

    How do they know what they’re looking at? I realize that it’s all theory and educated guess work but I’m getting tired of hearing them speak as if it’s the absolute truth.

    Let’s face it, if it actually takes millions or billions of years to form anything in space, then no one really knows what scientists are looking at since no one has seen the birth and death of a planet or star. For all we know, that swirling mass of dust is not the birth of a solar system but just that, a swirling mass of dust. Heck, for all we know, it could be the dumping ground of some alien culture.

    Sorry, I just had to get this off my chest. But astronomy has been my first great love and I’ve always kept an open mind when it comes to that. Thank you for letting me share my ignorance and frustration.

    timesobserver.blogspot.com

  55. Celtic_Evolution

    And thank you to Phildo for being our lucky winner! I was slightly off… it took 55 posts (I had guessed 30), but there it is nonetheless.

    Well done, Phildo, well done indeed.

    (rolls eyes)

  56. Celtic_Evolution

    @ timesobserver

    “How do they know what they’re looking at? I realize that it’s all theory and educated guess work but I’m getting tired of hearing them speak as if it’s the absolute truth.”

    Although I appreciate the fact that you later say that you keep an open mind, this statement hardly sounds like that. So I have to ask you, how can you be getting tired of something that frankly isn’t happening. I’ll tell you what I get tired of… people coming here time and time again and railing about how we speak about ANYTHING being “100% fact” or “absolute truth”. That might be the single most maddening thing I here form the complainers. I hear it all the flippin time and yet having been a loyal reader for many years I can tell you that I have almost NEVER observed that happening.

    I’m not going to get into yet another discussion of “Theory vs. Fact”, because it’s been discussed ad nauseum on this site. Please do some reading and research on the difference between the two and the difference between “everyday theory” and “scientific theory”.

    Now, to address your point that I quoted above, it’s really NOT *simply* theory and educated guess work. These people have a huge amount of data to draw from, and are really not just simply guessing. It’s not like you’re holding a card behind your back and they are blindly guessing “3 of diamonds”. More accurately, it’s like they watched you discard every other card in the deck, have knowledge of how many cards you started with, and based on that evidence, can guess what card that is despite not *actually* having seen it. It’s logical and educated theories and conclusions based on a preponderance of evidence and observation. It’s not just a shot in the dark. Give the scientists who spend their careers on researching these issues a *bit* more credit than that… please.

    (/rant)

  57. Once again, Zecharia Sitchin has been vindicated.

    Those of you who think that the so-called Planet-X “formed” in this solar system should investigate ROGUE PLANETS(which Sitchin predicted decades before they were first observed by with scientists) and everything else that Zecharia shows in his books (for ex. “The 12th Planet”, first part of his Earth Chronicles series).

    The Anunnaki, who came to Earth and gave the Sumerians civilization approx 3570BC (the same date that the “hebrews” calendar started), clearly stated the size and orbit of their home planet (a long elliptical orbit which brings it through the asteroid belt each approx 3600 years).

    This isn’t a bunch of “woo woo” either. Read Sitchin’s books and try NOT to be convinced that the man is an incredible intellect and that he has put together the evidence which will re-write so-called human history.. and our future.

    Mark

  58. Barton Paul Levenson:
    Would a planet of 0.5 Earth masses at 50 AUs or more be able to retain hydrogen? If so, the opacity from a really thick H2 atmosphere might lead to liquid-water temperatures at the surface, and even life on our Planet XII (I count Ceres, Pluto and Eris as planets, darn it).

    By my calculation, the thermal speed of hydrogen molecules at that distance ought to be no higher than ~600 m/s (assuming an albedo of 0; a higher albedo will equate to slower molecules). The escape speed from the body ought to be around 6000 m/s, assuming a bulk density of 3 g/cm^3 (ice with significant compression; this is 50% larger than Pluto’s bulk density). The rule of thumb I learned was that you’ll keep a gas in your atmosphere (against thermal escape anyway) over the lifetime of the solar system if the mean molecular speed is <~ 1/6 the escape speed. In this case, we qualify by about a factor of two, so hydrogen gas should remain in the atmosphere there.

    But liquid water? No. For one thing, you’re wanting to raise the temperature back up to ~273 K. At that point, the hydrogen will escape. That said, I’m not sure how you’d raise the temperature with hydrogen gas. All molecules made up of two of the same type of atom (“homonuclear diatomics”) make quite poor greenhouse gases. In fact, they’re nearly invisible to most wavelengths of light.

  59. Ike

    I like Sacramento State in the Big Sky next year.

  60. Celtic_Evolution

    “The Anunnaki, who came to Earth and gave the Sumerians civilization approx 3570BC (the same date that the “hebrews” calendar started), clearly stated the size and orbit of their home planet (a long elliptical orbit which brings it through the asteroid belt each approx 3600 years).

    This isn’t a bunch of “woo woo” either.”

    Ugh. This goofy post really was inevitable, wasn’t it… *sigh*

  61. rp

    Sometime in the last century, when I was in grade school, I learned that Neptune’s existence was postulated by differences between observed and predicted positions of Uranus. Once Neptune was discovered, it was thought that it could not account for all discrepancies, which led to the search and later discovery of Pluto.

    I also learned that Pluto (being disapointingly small) could not account for the discrepancies alone, and this was the main reason for postulating another planet. Not having heard anythiong much about it since then, I wonder…

    Where the discrepancies resolved due to better observations of Uranus and Neptune, eliminating the need for another planet?

    or, if not, is the Kupier belt in total assumed enough to account for the discrepancies?

    Are the observations in this paper not related to the original Uranus/Neptune discrepancies at all?

    Thaks,

    rp

  62. Nemo

    Hey, I stumbled onto this site and can’t write knowingly, but it seems to me that Pluto is a comet. It fills the criteria for either planet or comet except that its orbit crosses the orbit of another planet and it outgasses when it is closer to the sun, as does any decent comet.
    But where does one draw the line between a gravitationally formed spherical object that is a planet and one that is a “dwarf planet” or something that is merely an oversized comet?
    And really, trying to call Pluto and Charon our solar sysetm’s “double” planet? Isaac Asimov demonstrated mathematically many years ago that the Earth/moon system is a “double planet system.”
    And, in the true classical sense, the moon and sun were also included among the ancient “travellers” of space, so the term, “planet” needs some further , at least in my opinion.
    Finally, I realize that there might be compelling mathematical evidence that large planets cannot form beyond a certain distance, however, one could easily postulate circumstances under which a large body might be assembled from smaller bodies, so please don’t try to eliminate that possibility.
    Thanks for letting me empress my thoughts.

  63. Michael Gmirkin

    Hmm, rings with clear and sharp definition… Rings with… Where have I seen those before?

    Ohh right!

    http://www.plasma-universe.com/index.php/Texts:On_Possible_Electric_Phenomena_in_Solar_Systems_and_Nebulae

    Specifically, figures 255c and 257.

    But, nobody seems to pay much attention to the seminal works of Birkeland, despite recent RE-confirmation of “Birkeland currents” (without attribution, I might add)…

    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/themis/auroras/northern_lights.html
    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/themis/auroras/aurora_live.html

    Just a passing thought (mostly).

    But, might it not explain certain ring systems, if Birkeland wasn’t too far off base (A number of his experiments seem awfully close to the mark! Vis a vis Fig. 256 [less so] and Fig. 260 [more so] in the above referenced work with respect to coronal holes imaged in UV by SOHO / STEREO)…?

    (Couldn’t find the multi-spectral composite image I was looking for on short notice, but the below will do nicely.)
    http://sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov/gallery/SolarCorona/large/eit009_prev.jpg

    I tend to think that the works of Birkeland are more and more interesting, the more and more images of the sun and planets conform with his emprical lab experiments. Worth a look anyhow.

    Cheers,
    ~Michael

  64. BJN

    Erhm, “IX” is 9 in roman numerals. XI is eleven, assuming you meant this should be “X plus one”.

  65. Pat

    Wow – just so folks know, my comment was a joke. Preemptive perhaps, but I had no idea some people would actually attempt to put some kind of case to the pure speculation.

    Just a note: if you have an urge to take Sitchin seriously, step back a moment and take a few breaths. Then think a few minutes about what you see as headlines on the Weekly World News.

    A test: if your doctrine or system of beliefs makes any headline in Weekly World News sound plausible:

    GET HELP
    The clinical kind with set bedtimes and frequent group counseling

  66. Loaf Of Bread

    Another planet beyond the Kuiper belt does make for interesting conjecture. And I’d be just about willing to bet the family farm that, if such a planet exists, it will be found by accident by someone looking for something else entirely. (Science seems to work that way some times.)

  67. rp: “Where the discrepancies resolved due to better observations of Uranus and Neptune, eliminating the need for another planet?”

    The discrepancies were resolved. I can’t recall if they were an observational error or a computational error, but they were erroneous.

    Nemo: “Isaac Asimov demonstrated mathematically many years ago that the Earth/moon system is a “double planet system.””
    Not sure how you’d go about proving that since it’s largely a matter of definitions. The Moon orbits the Earth and the center of mass of the two bodies is within the Earth, so I find it difficult to really call us a double-planet.

    “Finally, I realize that there might be compelling mathematical evidence that large planets cannot form beyond a certain distance, however, one could easily postulate circumstances under which a large body might be assembled from smaller bodies, so please don’t try to eliminate that possibility.”

    To be fair, the reasons for thinking that forming a planet out there would be difficult aren’t mathematical, they’re science: we’ve run models and looked at the physics and that’s where this points. Mathematics can work in proofs and tends to be a lot more definitive than science.
    And no one is eliminating the possibility you suggest, that’s the usual model for planet formation. The trouble lies in assembling the larger bodies from the smaller ones, however…

  68. Nice theory and I think you present an interesting possibility. The evidence is there for sure. And, I definitely agree – I think it’s worth looking for, even if it may be a shot in the dark (literally).

  69. biggerbrain

    b4 you take out your pencil & slide rule, remember the speed of light is slowing down. SO, if you are using the speed of light as a constant, like all the other Einsteins out there in physics land, ALL your calculations are WRONG!!!!

  70. john

    I am impressed by those of you that can speak at length about all that planetary, and space stuff ! I find it extremely interesting ( the stuff I can actually understand ) and am confused as heck about the rest…
    However, Can any of you smarty pants tell me which lure works best for catching Musky on a sunny day with water temps around 68 degrees ? Hmmmm.

  71. Celtic_Evolution

    @ john

    personally, I’d use a 5 inch floating fire-tiger. Or an orange jointed rapala. Sunny day? Definately the fire-tiger.

    Any other quaestions?

  72. john

    @ CELTIC. Thanks. Actually, #1 rule, “BRIGHT DAY, BRIGHT LURE ” ! A Fire Tiger would work very well…
    And, by the way, love this astronomy stuff !

  73. Celtic_Evolution

    Grrrr…

    That should be “definitely”… and “questions”… curse my feeble typing skills… and curse the lack of a preview mode!

    Wait… have I already said that before? :)

  74. Celtic_Evolution

    @ john

    that was my thought as well… bright day, bright lure… loved the question though!

    when I’m not staring through my scope or uber-geeking on the latest science / astronomy news, i spend a good deal of time Musky fishing in Lake Ontario. I find a good night of star-gazing as relaxing and satisfying as a long day of fishing… love ‘em both.

  75. B Rye

    To think our sun does not have an equally sized dark star orbiting it is nuts. That would mean our galaxy, in the entire universe, is the only one that does not have this feature. I believe as we start to journey further past pluto(yes i still consider it a planet. It is the same size as Mercury and that’s still a planet.) we will discover our galaxy is much the same as all the others. Has any one ever wondered why near extinction events are nearly a set time apart?

  76. MeatwadGetsIt

    ”Quoting” Celtic_Evolutionon 14 Mar 2008 at 10:48 am

    “The Anunnaki, who came to Earth and gave the Sumerians civilization approx 3570BC (the same date that the “hebrews” calendar started), clearly stated the size and orbit of their home planet (a long elliptical orbit which brings it through the asteroid belt each approx 3600 years).
    This isn’t a bunch of “woo woo” either.”
    Ugh. This goofy post really was inevitable, wasn’t it… *sigh*

    ”ENDing Quoted”

    I know what you mean, they completely ignored the Dogon and Bozo tribes. (Seriously, the Bozo)

    Then this comment:
    ”Quoting” #
    # John Weisson 14 Mar 2008 at 10:16 am

    Barton Paul Levenson:
    Would a planet of 0.5 Earth masses at 50 AUs or more be able to retain hydrogen? If so, the opacity from a really thick H2 atmosphere might lead to liquid-water temperatures at the surface, and even life on our Planet XII (I count Ceres, Pluto and Eris as planets, darn it).

    By my calculation, the thermal speed of hydrogen molecules at that distance ought to be no higher than ~600 m/s (assuming an albedo of 0; a higher albedo will equate to slower molecules). The escape speed from the body ought to be around 6000 m/s, assuming a bulk density of 3 g/cm^3 (ice with significant compression; this is 50% larger than Pluto’s bulk density). The rule of thumb I learned was that you’ll keep a gas in your atmosphere (against thermal escape anyway) over the lifetime of the solar system if the mean molecular speed is <~ 1/6 the escape speed. In this case, we qualify by about a factor of two, so hydrogen gas should remain in the atmosphere there.

    But liquid water? No. For one thing, you’re wanting to raise the temperature back up to ~273 K. At that point, the hydrogen will escape. That said, I’m not sure how you’d raise the temperature with hydrogen gas. All molecules made up of two of the same type of atom (”homonuclear diatomics”) make quite poor greenhouse gases. In fact, they’re nearly invisible to most wavelengths of light.

    ”ENDing Quoted”

    I don’t know where you picked up your number plugins, but why call it to start with “H2″? I’d a uzed H.

    Now that escape velocity of ” <~ 1/6″, well that just beats <=1387/1388 of escape velocity.

    Again, seriously, enough pressure can make a cold temp water ice melt. We don’t require a high temp in the ‘water zone’ at our pressures to expect to find water, just the proper pressure.

    Has anyone tried to understand the possible distance of our (any) solar system is under <half the distance to the nearest star, at the most. A more accurate way to say it would not be in distance, but by gravitational pull, as in <halfDUHgrav to the nearest star.

    I havn’t been here in a while, do you’all recognize the electric model? Facts are hard to beat. An example to make the point, extrasolar systems, why try to prove what is a common reality. It is only a creationist that can see this solar system as unique. Stars have colder things floating around them in soyckles. By the way some write, you’ld guess that a magnetic field does not give away electric currents. Somehow a magnetic field can be there without some electric influences. Time to wake up and see the sparks.

    Hexagonal craters, some pentagonal, I’ve written to various “experts” over the years and not one has got back about those unusual features, six sided craters. Funny how the thunder web site finally brought out a report about them shortly after I sent them my hexagon shaped crater observations, in their lab plasma scars too.

  77. Bender

    Ok i’m not an expert on this, but why do you think its a planet, maybe its a comet or a really big ice formation, i mean Pluto is not a planet anymore :(

  78. Mark Hansen

    @B Rye
    Where do you get data showing Mercury and Pluto being the same size? Every place I’ve checked shows Pluto being less than half the diameter and less than half the mass of Mercury.

  79. Mark writes:

    [[The Anunnaki, who came to Earth and gave the Sumerians civilization approx 3570BC (the same date that the “hebrews” calendar started), clearly stated the size and orbit of their home planet (a long elliptical orbit which brings it through the asteroid belt each approx 3600 years).]]

    A period of 3600 years implies a semimajor axis of 235 AUs. It’s an Earthlike planet, since the Anunnaki can live on Earth? Must have an Earthlike albedo, c. 0.31, and an Earthlike greenhouse atmosphere, raising surface temperature over emission temperature by 13% or so.

    Let’s see. The emission temperature at 235 AUs for a planet of albedo 0.31 would be 23.4 K. With our Earthlike greenhouse effect, the surface temperature would be 26.4 K.

    Gosh, Sitchen’s planet would have an atmosphere frozen solid, since the melting point of nitrogen is 77 K.

    Would I be wrong to think life capable of surviving on Earth couldn’t survive on the 12th planet, and wouldn’t evolve there?

  80. rp,

    I believe the perturbations of Neptune they were trying to solve were subsequently shown to be spurious. I.e., they found Pluto because of bad data.

    Makes you think, doesn’t it?
    Push the car…

  81. john writes:

    [[Can any of you smarty pants tell me which lure works best for catching Musky on a sunny day with water temps around 68 degrees ? Hmmmm.]]

    Try a hunk of bacon.

  82. B Rye posts:

    [[To think our sun does not have an equally sized dark star orbiting it is nuts.]]

    Our sun does not have an equally sized dark star orbiting it.

    [[ That would mean our galaxy, in the entire universe, is the only one that does not have this feature.]]

    You seem to be using “galaxy” to mean “solar system.” The galaxy is the system of several hundred billion stars, in a multi-armed spiral 100,000 light-years across, that our solar system is a part of. And if you mean “solar system,” please note that around a fifth of stars are actually single. Not all stars are binary or multiple.

    [[ I believe as we start to journey further past pluto(yes i still consider it a planet. It is the same size as Mercury and that’s still a planet.)]]

    Pluto is considerably smaller than Mercury. Mercury is about 0.055 Earth masses, Pluto more like 0.0022.

    [[ we will discover our galaxy is much the same as all the others. Has any one ever wondered why near extinction events are nearly a set time apart?]]

    Are you referring to Raup and Sepkoski’s 1980s-era theory that there was a 26-million-year periodicity in mass extinctions? I think they’ve kind of dropped pursuing that one; it didn’t work out when they checked.

  83. charles stokes

    To whom it may concern==Of course there is another planet out in the solar system==It has been seen by the new Telescope sattelite in space now==It has detected the planet NIRU=Or Sun==Around it is circulating 3 other bodies–as earth goes around our sun–so does this Planet==It will be very close to our orbit =in the year-2012– 2013=It will cause the poles to shift–Very many floods-ETC.Some are saying -really change things so drasticly!!Some are even suggesting-People from one of these Planets=Will invade Earth!!Gey ready earthlings!!

  84. v3rlon

    I saw something on the science channel the other day where, in working out the age of the craters on the lunar surface, someone came up with the theory that earth may have formed outside the asteroid belt and later moved in. I wasn’t able to catch all of it, but I seem to recall that the idea involved the young Earth’s orbit decaying over time due to the combined gravity of Jupiter and Saturn. This would imply that the Earth, or at least the moon, was formed somewhere further out than the asterid belt, as the passage through the belt is said to be the cause of the many craters on the moon dating to the same time.

    I also read in a newspaper that one theory for the formation of the moon was that Earth got hit by something about the size of Mars early in its formation (which would mean it and the moon very likely moved together if both theories are correct, and I am not saying they are).

    So, a 9th planet (since Pluto got the pink slip) at some monstrous distance may have formed much closer and then moved for whatever reason. If there really were cue balls the size of Mars with the solar system was new, I’d imagine they could move more than an eight ball.

    Perhaps the heat from such a collision could be stored in crystals using perpetual motion magnet machines and the people of…Niribu (or whatever that planet is called) are using it to keep their amtosphere from freezing solid. (Note this last paragraph did not receive a full ration of seriousness before being commited to the post)

  85. v3rlon

    Quote : # Celtic_Evolutionon 14 Mar 2008 at 9:06 am

    Although I appreciate the fact that you later say that you keep an open mind, this statement hardly sounds like that. So I have to ask you, how can you be getting tired of something that frankly isn’t happening. I’ll tell you what I get tired of… people coming here time and time again and railing about how we speak about ANYTHING being “100% fact” or “absolute truth”. That might be the single most maddening thing I here form the complainers. I hear it all the flippin time and yet having been a loyal reader for many years I can tell you that I have almost NEVER observed that happening.

    I’m not going to get into yet another discussion of “Theory vs. Fact”, because it’s been discussed ad nauseum on this site. Please do some reading and research on the difference between the two and the difference between “everyday theory” and “scientific theory”.

    Now, to address your point that I quoted above, it’s really NOT *simply* theory and educated guess work. These people have a huge amount of data to draw from, and are really not just simply guessing. It’s not like you’re holding a card behind your back and they are blindly guessing “3 of diamonds”. More accurately, it’s like they watched you discard every other card in the deck, have knowledge of how many cards you started with, and based on that evidence, can guess what card that is despite not *actually* having seen it. It’s logical and educated theories and conclusions based on a preponderance of evidence and observation. It’s not just a shot in the dark. Give the scientists who spend their careers on researching these issues a *bit* more credit than that… please.

    (/rant)

    Counter rant:
    1. I see theories passed off as certainty here (almost any time someone says something flat doesn’t exist, since you can’t really prove that something DOESN’T exist).
    2. Those theories change from time to time as we get more data.
    3. You open a new pack of standard playing cards, and discard all but one. I know exactly what you are holding, and there is no reason to change my ‘theory.’ While it is not impossible that your deck is a mistake and has two copies of the 3 of diamonds, I would not bet that way. Your analogy implies a certainty that just isn’t there. Find two reputable experts in any scientific field who disagree with each other on a key point. That is plenty of room for doubt. “We all agree that x happened, but we do not agree HOW it happened” is a LOT of room for doubt, especially when each group can ‘prove’ the other group’s version is impossible. This would indicate that we haven’t seen enough of the cards to say it is a 3 of diamonds, though we might be able to say it is a diamond, or even a 3 in some cases.

  86. Sarcastro

    Many machines on Ix. New machines.

    Better than those on Rigesse?

  87. There are a lot of object that are nearly planetary size (some asteroids are almost as large as pluto), a lot of it is just definition

  88. Dustin

    I am not suggesting anything here, but there seem to be a fair bit of science minded folks here who might be able to answer a question I have. I honestly don’t put any stock in the whole Nibiru thing, it seems doubtful, and that’s being generous. But while reading some of the comments it occurred to me that I recall reading about how it is more difficult to view objects in our own galaxy because our view is obstructed by other galactic objects and such. I suppose I’m just assuming that the same problem could, in some sense, occur with viewing objects in our own solar system as well. With that in mind, suppose there were a planet roughly the same size as Earth at roughly the same distance from the sun, that had an identical or very similar orbital period, and which was on the exact opposite side of the sun. Assuming, for the above reason, that we would be unable to see it directly, what other methods would we have for detecting it. I’m guessing the effects of its gravity would be one of the ways. If that’s the case, how accurately is gravity accounted for in our solar system. Meaning, is there any serious disparity between calculated an observed movement of things moving through the solar system? I’m just curious, if anyone has any insight here.
    Thanks

  89. Ed

    You said: “No, I’m not talking Nibiru or any of that other nonsense (and it is nonsense), ”

    Just because you cannot conceive of something that the Sumerian, Akkadian and Nineva civilizations believed in, Does Not Make You Correct in calling it “nonsense,” and Disqualifies you from Being a Scientist. Science is based on Nothing more or Less than “Hypothesis”, which is defined as an “Educated GUESS”. There is NO SUCH THING as FACT in Science, it is ALL a Guess, educated GUESS, yes, but that is Still a Guess, since you CANNOT Disprove it…….A Lack of a planet like Nibiru, from what you or any other Astronomer can see is NOT proof that it does not Exist. It ONLY means you have not seen it.

    Science “Facts” change faster than apparently your intellect does.

    Now, IF we ever have the technology to Completely Map the Solar System, which we apparently DO NOT, since you are Just now finding this planet, NEAR US (that is LESS than a Light-Year away), and considering how many Planets have been FOUND in Other Solar Systems MANY Light Years Away from here, PROVES that you Cannot Know for Sure that Nibiru does not exist. Yet IF we ever have the Technology to Map the WHOLE Solar Syatem, Then, and ONLY THEN, can you say Nibiru does not exist.

    The Sumerians Sure Knew that the Earth Revolved Around the Sun, THOUSANDS of Year Before Galileo. They Even know that we had 9 Planets (and Yes, Pluto IS a Full-Planet, no matter what some committee has decided, Pluto sure doesn’t know the difference).

    Now, “I” have just PROVEN how Little you KNOW about Science by the FACT that you have just now found this planet, even though over the past few years Literally Hundreds of Planets More than 10 Light-years away had already been found.

    How SAD it is that YOU cannot Conceive that there is More out there, and that you have CLOSED your Intellect to the Possibilities of the Universe.

    Save us ALL the Trouble and Leave the Field of Science while you still have Some Shred of Dignity left.

    Personally, I DO NOT Believe in Nibiru, but I refuse to denounce it out of hand until it can be Proven one way or the other, and we CANNOT prove it one way or another….YET!!!!

  90. crispin zamora

    is it true that there is more than8 planets in our solar system??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

  91. Nemo

    I’m coming in late just to point out that the commenter “Nemo”, above, is not me, the one who’s been commenting here occasionally for the last few months. (I didn’t see his comment when this post was new. I found this via a Google search on “site:www.badastronomy.com nemo” — I was looking for followups I might’ve missed. The other results are all me, Verne or Disney.)

  92. weird much. god will let you all know!! :) bye!

  93. Nick

    look you lot be quite about duck doggers!!!

  94. Nick

    he is serpost to be in a pond not space!!! and i belive that there is a new planet out there

  95. socacess

    IF THERE REALLY IS ANOTHER PLANET OUT THERE, CAN WE JUST LEAVE IT ALONE!?!?

  96. this is so kool so u should put how many solar systems there are

    this is a good website and you should update it more

    i think it is kool

    how many solar systems are there??????

  97. stephanie

    i think it is kinda of cool but i really need to know what is a sunspot???????

    and how is it kool if another solar system combines with our solar system????

    that would be big trouble!!!!

  98. I think there can be because like,
    there are TONS of other galaxies like TRILLIONS of them
    so like 973659372992592051853959358 planets could exsist.
    and what are the chances of any other sign of life.
    i dunno maybe 8732543626 of the planets could have life right??
    *not very scientific with no research*

  99. Betsy Cokeley

    I believe that there is a planet in the same ring like Earth named Peramonia and has life on that planet. I don’t know if they think we exsist but it is best to not to attack that planet to prevent war or we the planet might not exsist. But I wil find that planet some day no matter how long it takes.

  100. Cambus731

    in answer to 92, (dustin Says) such a ‘counter-Earth’ planet is impossible
    I am aware of such a planet being used in SF, (Gor beung the famous example) but if such a planet existed it would have been discovered Centuries ago, as Earth’s orbit is lightly eccentric (not as eccentric as Mars’ but more eccentric than Venus’) so your hypothetical planet would at times be moving faster or slower than Earth so it would become visible as a bright naked eye object at total eclipses.
    Also such a planet would cause perubations on other Planets and Spacecraft. Moreover the situation of two similar sized planets in the same orbit would be inherently unstable unless they are in the same orbit 60 degrees apart.
    So it is very likely that over the age of the Solar system that the two planets would inevitably collide.

  101. di

    i was only looking for validation of a planet name i was given, didn’t bother reading most stuff as irrelevent, thanks to you for imput

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