Science & Tech, Editor's Choice

Planet X: Not a Conspiracy Theory Anymore

People have always been curious about the universe, that is the galaxies and the planets. They simply can’t believe that we are alone in the vastness of it and due to the need to explain the extinction of earlier known life forms, they have discovered a number of dwarf planets and have formed theories that an extraterrestrial element could have extinguished ancient Earth forms.

Urban Legend

For over a century, rumors about a certain planet that is way, way larger than Earth is orbiting around the sun in an oval shaped orbit that takes thousands of years to complete its rotation. Legends say that this planet pass by Earth’s way every certain thousands of years and had caused the extinction of the dinosaurs and the Mayan tribe due its gravitational pull that upset the balance in our planet that caused extreme weather conditions and explosions of different volcanoes.

Planet X. It used to be urban legend until just this year, as CalTech astronomer Mike Brown gathered enough evidence to prove there is indeed an unknown planet – the Planet X as he calls it, that could be as large as Neptune and indeed orbits in an outer solar system. Simply put, it is a giant planet that is about 20 times farther than Pluto.

The Nibiru Doomsday

In 1995, an idea of a cataclysmic scenario was drafted which involves Earth’s interaction with a massive planetary object, called Planet X or Nibiru, sometime in the 21st century that will collide with Earth and whether it was hit or miss, will result in catastrophe.

Several websites also emerged that insist on NASA’s effort to hide such information from the public. Some filmmakers took inspiration from this Nibiru apocalyptic theories to produce films such as 2011’s Melancholia and another titled 2012.

However, scientific data rejects the Nibiru doomsday saying that such event is impossible to happen. However, more recent findings have found a possibility that indeed a Planet X is out there but with a nature that is more benign.

Scientific Probability

Back in 2003, Brown discovered the then farthest object seen by our telescopes, the dwarf planet called Sedna. It has an elliptical orbit around the sun that takes 10,000 years to complete. A decade later, Brown and the others discovered four more dwarf planets and what is interesting is that all these planets seemingly move in a pattern. Brown referred to the movement like that of the hands of a clock. These dwarf planets move in the same direction in different rates and sometimes line up in one direction which Brown believes cannot be likely a result of coincidence. This is backed up by scientific statistics that says that there is only 0.007% of coincidence for planetary alignment.

To challenge his theory and to produce an educated hypothesis, Brown approached a fellow at Caltech, Konstantin Batygin, an expert in solar system dynamics. What they did is they plotted the movements of these dwarf planets in the area they call the Kuiper Belt using CalTech’s technology and made calculations using mathematical formulas and simulated the movements using Hamilton Dynamics to examine a potential explanation for the phenomena. And the result? A massive body must be keeping these dwarf planets in line. Now, this massive object becomes the Planet X. But unlike how the Sun influences the planets in our own Solar system, this Planet X only interacts with the dwarf planets every 50,000 years or so; therefore, it must be about 10 times larger than Earth to produce that kind of impact.

Scientific Proof

Brown is proud of their discovery that he says that this time they are sure that a Planet X exists. Skeptics cannot be convinced enough even when Brown and Batygin already published articles in Scientific Journals. As a result, currently, all the data is being compiled and the map produced by Batygin and Brown that plots the dwarf planets’ movements was made available to public to catch attention for possible collaboration. Doing the maths, they were able to somehow locate where the Planet X could be.

In order to further observe the planets, the astronomers placed a powerful telescope, Japan’s Subaru, and planted it in Hawaii. However, Brown admits it could take 10-15 years to fully locate Planet X which he also claims to be our original 9th planet.

Right now, what’s sure is that they do not act out of excitement and are not overwhelmed by the thrill of discovering an actual, massive planet since they employ a Carl Sagan critical thinking method. This requires independent search for facts and consideration of all possible alternate explanation in order to incite scientific debates. This way, Planet X could be discovered earlier. According to Brown, he is the proponent of the search but he would be extremely happy if others actually find it. What he knows is that he is ecstatic to find it soon, regardless of who finds it first.

Planet X, Originally the Ninth Planet?

One theory these astronomers are looking at, is that some 4.5 Billion years ago, this planet could have started forming just like all the others in our solar system. However, the gases involved in its formation are slow and caused for it to be left in the zone where it is now. Had Planet X’s inner core stayed inside the solar system, it could have accumulated more gas and evolved to be another Neptune or Jupiter. Nevertheless, the other planets’ compacted inner cores did not leave enough space in our solar system for another giant to develop hence dislocated Planet X.

After careful observations, what is sure is that here is a Planet X whose whereabouts is yet to be discovered. Also, with the way it influences the movements of the dwarf planets in the Kuiper belt, it is extremely enormous.

So, would its discovery produce another Pluto-debate or Pluto-controversy? No. With a mass that is 5000 times more than Pluto, astronomers are certain that Planet X is definitely and absolutely a true planet that will take the place of Pluto as the certified ninth planet.

About Patricia Abrihan

Patricia has always been inspired by the witty yet innocent voice of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird that she believes that writing is able to revolutionize ideas of society. She is a former college instructor from the Philippines and is currently a freelance writer and blogger managing her portfolio. She is open to collaboration and also loves reading and watching movies.

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