Among the many mysteries that reach far beyond our solar system, well, obscurely, is the extraordinary egg-shaped trajectory of a dwarf planet called 90377 Sedna.
Its orbit is 11,400 years old, which is one of the longest orbits ever Solar Systemleading the dwarf planet to 7 billion miles (11.3 billion km) from the sun, then escorting it out of the solar system and passing through the Kuiper Belt for 87 billion miles (140 billion km), finally taking it inside a loose envelope of icy bodies known as Oort cloud. Since Sedna’s discovery in 2003, astronomers have struggled to explain how such a world could have formed in a seemingly empty region of Earth. spaceAs it is very far from being affected by the giant planets in the solar system and even Milky Way Itself.
Now, a new study suggests that a hitherto undiscovered Earth-like planet hovering in that region could be deflecting the orbits of Sedna and a handful of similar trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs), the myriad of icy bodies orbiting it. the sun over great distances. Astronomers say that many TNOs have oddly inclined, egg-shaped orbits, possibly because they are being pulled in by a hidden planet.
Related: The elusive Planet Nine could be surrounded by hot moons, and that’s how we found it
Two Japanese researchers used computer simulations to analyze the effects of such an undiscovered planet on TNOs. That simulation, which included the evolutions of several real and model TNOs in the farthest glacial region, known as Kuiper beltproduced the extreme orbits observed for Sedna and other TNO objects.
Astronomers say such a planet would be 1.5 to three times the size of Earth and would lie between 23 billion miles (37 billion km) to 46 billion miles (74 billion km) from the sun.
“It is plausible that a primitive planetary body could have survived in the distant Kuiper belt, since many such bodies were present in the early solar system,” the researchers wrote in the new study.
Quest to find hidden worlds
The search for planets lurking in the frigid edges of our solar system is not a new concept.
What’s called Planet Ninea world ten times larger than LandIt is thought to be responsible for at least five strange features in the solar system, including the oddly tilted orbits of a few Kuiper belt objects. This theoretical orb has captured the interest of many, but it has yet to be discovered. But research suggests that if Planet Nine is out there, it could be somewhere between 37 billion miles (59 billion km) to 74 billion miles (119 billion km) from the sun.
Although the possibility of a ninth planet has gained much interest from research groups around the world, the theory has also been controversial. Some astronomers argue that the highly eccentric orbits of TNOs, for which the presence of Planet Nine was deemed necessary, could have occurred without the presence of the hidden planet.
In 2021, A.J Independent study In fact, the team claimed that the data used by the team behind the first discovery paper theorizing Planet Nine was biased, concluding that there was a very low chance that such a planet could exist.
Compared to Planet Nine, the newly hypothesized planet — dubbed a “Kuiper belt planet (KBP)” — would be much closer and more influential to the orbits of Kuiper belt objects, especially those beyond 4 billion miles (7 billion km), according to the new study. .
It is worth noting that KBP has not been monitored directly or indirectly yet. If KBP orbits within 34 billion miles (54 billion km), the authors say there is a 90% chance of spotting it in the sky.
However, more information about the structure of objects at the edges of the Kuiper Belt is needed to detect or rule out the presence of KBP.
This research is described in a paper Published August 25 in The Astronomical Journal.