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"Odd Tilt of Our Sun Caused by Planet 9" --Caltech Scientists: "Explains Something About the Solar System That's Long Been a Mystery"

 

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Planet Nine--the undiscovered planet at the edge of the Solar System that was predicted by the work of Caltech's Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown in January 2016--appears to be responsible for the unusual tilt of the sun, according to a new study.

The large and distant planet may be adding a wobble to the solar system, giving the appearance that the sun is tilted slightly.

"Because Planet Nine is so massive and has an orbit tilted compared to the other planets, the solar system has no choice but to slowly twist out of alignment," says Elizabeth Bailey, a graduate student at Caltech and lead author of a study announcing the discovery.

All of the planets orbit in a flat plane with respect to the sun, roughly within a couple degrees of each other. That plane, however, rotates at a six-degree tilt with respect to the sun--giving the appearance that the sun itself is cocked off at an angle. Until now, no one had found a compelling explanation to produce such an effect. "It's such a deep-rooted mystery and so difficult to explain that people just don't talk about it," says Brown, the Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor of Planetary Astronomy.

Brown and Batygin's discovery of evidence that the sun is orbited by an as-yet-unseen planet--that is about 10 times the size of Earth with an orbit that is about 20 times farther from the sun on average than Neptune's--changes the physics. Planet Nine, based on their calculations, appears to orbit at about 30 degrees off from the other planets' orbital plane--in the process, influencing the orbit of a large population of objects in the Kuiper Belt, which is how Brown and Batygin came to suspect a planet existed there in the first place.

"It continues to amaze us; every time we look carefully we continue to find that Planet Nine explains something about the solar system that had long been a mystery," says Batygin, an assistant professor of planetary science.

Their findings have been accepted for publication in an upcoming issue of the Astrophysical Journal, and will be presented on October 18 at the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences annual meeting, held in Pasadena.

The tilt of the solar system's orbital plane has long befuddled astronomers because of the way the planets formed: as a spinning cloud slowly collapsing first into a disk and then into objects orbiting a central star.

Planet Nine's angular momentum is having an outsized impact on the solar system based on its location and size. A planet's angular momentum equals the mass of an object multiplied by its distance from the sun, and corresponds with the force that the planet exerts on the overall system's spin. Because the other planets in the solar system all exist along a flat plane, their angular momentum works to keep the whole disk spinning smoothly.

Planet Nine's unusual orbit, however, adds a multi-billion-year wobble to that system. Mathematically, given the hypothesized size and distance of Planet Nine, a six-degree tilt fits perfectly, Brown says.

The next question, then, is how did Planet Nine achieve its unusual orbit? Though that remains to be determined, Batygin suggests that the planet may have been ejected from the neighborhood of the gas giants by Jupiter, or perhaps may have been influenced by the gravitational pull of other stellar bodies in the solar system's extreme past.

For now, Brown and Batygin continue to work with colleagues throughout the world to search the night sky for signs of Planet Nine along the path they predicted in January. That search, Brown says, may take three years or more.

The Daily Galaxy via Caltech

Comments

Planet 9 could also be a rouge planet that was ejected from another solar system.

That might actually be tested by obtaining a sample of it, which is most likely covered in ice. While I am not an astronomer (I am a truck driver by profession), it seems likely to me that the isotopes it is made of would be different than the isotopes that are found elsewhere, if this is true. Also, this would explain it's highly eccentric orbit.

Since for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, I would assume that an ejection from our own solar system would have left "fossilized" traces, where the orbits of the other planets would have been disturbed. Of course, the same thing could be said about a Mars sized object crashing into the Earth and creating our moon. So I guess this might depend upon how early in the history of the solar system, that an ejection like this might have happened.

This demonstrates that our understanding of our own solar system is ever-evolving. I found it interesting that some celestial body may have influenced planet 9's current orbit in our solar system's extreme past. I wonder if this could have something to do with our own Galaxy's movement or our solar system's movement within the Milky Way Galaxy. Could there have been a star in this extreme past that was closer than Alpha Centuri is to our solar system today

Seems like this all raises more questions than provides answers.

In any case very interesting and thought-provoking post.

I think it is far more interesting that the upper limit of Planet Nine's orbital period (guestimated short end = 10,000 years, upper 20,000+ years) also coincides with the Milankovitch cycles (orbital wobbles) of Earth. Even more interesting since those cycles were proposed and defined back in the dark days of the 1920's.

I love it when we realize there could be a planet in our own solar system, ten times the size of earth, that we have not discovered yet. We are reminded we barely know anything even about our immediate surroundings.

sitchen's planet x

planet X fuking idiots, planet X...

@Gaugain, you must have graduated cum laude from Harvard. Nice syntax. Precisely denotes your I.Q..

a dumb question, how can you tell witch way is up in the universe?

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