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Scientists claim weird orbit of objects on the edge of the Milky way are NOT caused by Planet Nine

Scientists say the weird orbit of strange bodies called ‘detached objects’ on the edge of the Milky way are not caused by Planet Nine.

Astronomers have debated whether an elusive ninth planet orbits beyond Pluto for years, with many suggesting an undiscovered world may be lurking on the outer reaches of the solar system.

Scientists now say bumper car-like interactions at the edge of the solar system explain the dynamics of ‘detached bodies’ such as the minor planet Sedna.

Researchers believe smaller objects such as asteroids could be crashing into Sedna which significantly changes its orbit.

Scientists now say bumper car-like interactions at the edge of the solar system explain the dynamics of ‘detached bodies’ such as the minor planet Sedna (pictured)

The minor planet, which was discovered in 2003, orbits Earth’s sun at a distance of eight billion miles but appears separated from the rest of the solar system.

One theory for its unusual dynamics is that an as-of-yet-unseen ninth planet beyond Neptune may have disturbed its orbit and other detached objects.

But now, researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder, led by assistant professor Ann-Marie Madigan, calculated the orbits of Sedna.

They found it may be affected by other detached objects jostling against each other and space debris in the outer solar system.

‘There are so many of these bodies out there. What does their collective gravity do?’ said Professor Madigan.

‘We can solve a lot of these problems by just taking into account that question’, she said.

Researchers are due to present their findings at the 232nd meeting of the American Astronomical Society between 3rd – 7th June in Denver.

Detached objects like Sedna get their name because they complete humongous, circular orbits that bring them nowhere close to big planets like Jupiter or Neptune.

How they got to the outer solar system on their own is an ongoing mystery.

Astronomers have debated whether an elusive ninth planet (artist's impression) orbits beyond Pluto for years, with many suggesting an undiscovered world may be lurking on the outer reaches of the solar system 

Astronomers have debated whether an elusive ninth planet (artist’s impression) orbits beyond Pluto for years, with many suggesting an undiscovered world may be lurking on the outer reaches of the solar system 

WHAT IS SEDNA?

Sedna is a minor planet that was discovered in 2003.

It orbits Earth’s sun at a distance of eight billion miles but appears separated from the rest of the solar system.

Detached objects like Sedna get their name because they complete humongous, circular orbits that bring them nowhere close to big planets like Jupiter or Neptune.

How they got to the outer solar system on their own is an ongoing mystery.

One theory for its unusual dynamics is that an as-of-yet-unseen ninth planet beyond Neptune may have disturbed its orbit and other detached objects.

Scientists now say bumper car-like interactions at the edge of the solar system explain the dynamics of ‘detached bodies’ such as Sedna.

Researchers believe smaller objects such as asteroids could be crashing into objects called Sedna which significantly changes the orbit.

As space debris interact in the outer solar system, the orbit of these objects tightens and widens in over time, researchers say.

Using computer simulations, researchers calculated that these icy objects orbit the sun like the hands of a clock.

The orbits of smaller objects, such as asteroids, however, move faster than the larger ones, such as Sedna.

‘You see a pileup of the orbits of smaller objects to one side of the sun,’ said Jacob Fleisig, an undergraduate studying astrophysics at CU Boulder.

‘These orbits crash into the bigger body, and what happens is those interactions will change its orbit from an oval shape to a more circular shape’, he said.

Essentially, this means that Sedna’s orbit goes from normal to detached entirely because of small-scale interactions.

Detached objects like Sedna (pictured) get their name because they complete humongous, circular orbits that bring them nowhere close to big planets like Jupiter or Neptune

Detached objects like Sedna (pictured) get their name because they complete humongous, circular orbits that bring them nowhere close to big planets like Jupiter or Neptune

Researchers’ observations corroborate research from 2012 which found the bigger a detached object gets the further away its orbit becomes from the sun.

The findings may even provide clues to the extinction of the dinosaurs, researchers say.

As space debris interact in the outer solar system, the orbit of these objects tightens and widens in over time.

This cycle could end up in shooting comets towards the inner solar system – including in the direction of Earth.

‘While we’re not able to say that this pattern killed the dinosaurs, it’s tantalising’, said Mr Fleisig. 

WHAT IS MYSTERIOUS PLANET 9?

Astronomers believe that the orbits of a number of bodies in the distant reaches of the solar system have been disrupted by the pull of an as yet unidentified planet.

First proposed by a group at CalTech in the US, this alien world was theorised to explain the distorted paths seen in distant icy bodies.

In order to fit in with the data they have, this alien world – popularly called Planet Nine – would need to be roughly four time the size of Earth and ten times the mass.

Researchers say a body of this size and mass would explain the clustered paths of a number of icy minor planets beyond Neptune.

Its huge orbit would mean it takes between 10,000 and 20,000 years to make a single pass around the sun. 

The theoretical Planet Nine is based on the gravitational pull it exerts on these bodies, with astronomers confident it will be found in the coming years.

Those hoping for theoretical Earth-sized planets proposed by astrologers or science fiction writers – which are ‘hiding behind the sun’ and linked with Doomsday scenarios – may have to keep searching.

Planet Nine was first theorised by experts at Caltech in 2016 when they spotted that a group of icy objects on the edges of the solar system have tilted orbits.

They suggested the orbits of these lumps of ice – so-called Trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) – were warped by the gravitational pull of a ninth planet in the solar system.

The objects had elliptical orbits that pointed in the same direction and were tilted 30 degrees ‘downward’ compared to the plane in which planets circle the sun.     

While Planet Nine has never been spotted, a number of astronomers – including scientists at Nasa – have since released research that supports the theory.

In a paper published last month, experts led by the University of Michigan described a distant object that they spotted in 2014 that could be as large as a dwarf planet.

The rocky body, dubbed 2015 BP519, peaked the team’s interest because its orbit is unusually tilted away from the plane that most objects that orbit the sun lie.

They used computer simulations of the solar system to explore how this strange trajectory may have arisen.

Simulations where our star system had eight planets did not reproduce 2015 BP519’s tilted orbit.

When researchers added a ninth planet that matched the properties of those proposed by the Caltech researchers, the simulation reproduced 2015 BP519’s current orbit almost exactly.

In 2016, researchers examined the orbits of six objects in a distant region of icy bodies stretching beyond Neptune. The objects had orbits that point in the same direction and are tilted 30° 'downward' compared to the solar plane in which the eight planets circle the sun

In 2016, researchers examined the orbits of six objects in a distant region of icy bodies stretching beyond Neptune. The objects had orbits that point in the same direction and are tilted 30° ‘downward’ compared to the solar plane in which the eight planets circle the sun

‘It’s not proof that Planet Nine exists,’ Professor David Gerdes, an astronomer at the University of Michigan and a co-author on the new paper, told Quanta.

‘But I would say the presence of an object like this in our solar system bolsters the case for Planet Nine.’

The study adds to piling evidence for the existence of Planet Nine, though astronomers remain latched to their telescopes in search of the object.

In October 2017 Nasa weighed in on the debate, highlighting five different lines of evidence pointing to the existence of the object.

It said that imagining that Planet Nine does not exist generates more problems than it solves.

Dr Konstantin Batygin, a planetary astrophysicist at Caltech in Pasadena, whose team is closing in on finding Planet Nine, said: ‘There are now five different lines of observational evidence pointing to the existence of Planet Nine.

‘If you were to remove this explanation and imagine Planet Nine does not exist, then you generate more problems than you solve.

‘All of a sudden, you have five different puzzles, and you must come up with five different theories to explain them.’

Researchers are now using the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii in the hopes of finding Planet Nine, and hope that its detection will also shed light on its origin.   

 



Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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