Monday, January 25, 2016

Amber Alert for Planet Nine

     Researchers at Caltech (a very smart place) say they may have discovered a ninth planet. It would be planet ten, but remember Pluto got downgraded a decade ago. Poor Pluto.
     The same way you can't just catch a weird looking fish and say you discovered a new species, scientists can't either. The researchers at California Institute of Technology, Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown (much easier name, thanks Mike), still need more evidence, and Planet Nine will have to go through a process before it is officially declared a planet (yes, there is an organization for designating planets), but there's still some optimism.
     First off, Batygin and Brown have not seen Planet Nine. The picture above is an artist's interpretation of what Planet Nine could possible look like. To be fair, most things in astronomy you can't see, touch, or hear. Scientists, like Batygin and Brown, use various other methods to help figure out hard astronomic questions. Batygin and Brown studied the orbit of other deep space objects and have noticed something seems off. They hypothesize that the gravity of a large object is effecting the orbits of these objects, and since we know for sure there is no star there, why not a planet? In order for this to be true, Planet Nine would have to be bigger than Earth, but smaller than Neptune.
     While having a ninth planet added to the roster would be exciting, there's some things we have to consider. If Planet Nine is forreal, it could be a while before we're able to see it. Researchers estimate Planet Nine is between 20 to 100 billion miles away. Pluto is over 4 billion miles away and we just got our first clear images of it last year. That's so far away, one orbit for Planet Nine could take 10,000 to 20,000 years. In case you forgot, it only takes us Earth folks 365 days. Batygin and Brown also don't know where in it's orbit Planet Nine currently is, so they currently don't know exactly where to look.
     While there is no time table on when astronomers may find this planet, they are confident that once discovered, it will indeed be designated as a "planet" and not a "drawf planet", which poor Pluto has to live with. Planet Nine is an exciting discovering for astronomers, and while there's no chance you'll' be able to see it in your backyard telescope, you should be excited too.

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