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An Earth-sized planet may be lurking in the outer reaches of our solar system, or it may not just be | Hungarian audio

An Earth-sized planet may be lurking in the outer reaches of our solar system, or it may not just be |  Hungarian audio

Illustration of our photo (Javier Miranda/Unsplash)

It has been almost 180 years since the German astronomer Johann Gottfried Galle discovered Neptune in 1846. Since then, the idea that there might be another, larger celestial body orbiting beyond this planet has come up from time to time. At the beginning of the 20th century, the hypothetical object got a name: it was called “Planet In 1930, they appeared to have found the new planet and named it Pluto, but it soon became clear that the mass of the celestial body, which has since been reclassified as a dwarf planet, was not enough to explain the strange patterns observed in the planet. The orbits of Neptune and Uranus, as well as other outer bodies. So the search has been ongoing ever since, to no avail so far.

Although Planet They orbit in the outer regions of the solar system. These celestial bodies are called trans-Neptunian objects, or TNOs for short, and most of them orbit the sun at a distance greater than 30 astronomical units (AU). (One astronomical unit is the average distance between Earth and the Sun: 150 million km.)

It must be an as yet unknown planet

TNOs are material left over from the formation of the solar system, which drifted into the outer regions of the solar system during the chaotic early years of planetary formation. Because they are so distant, small, and faint objects, mapping them isn’t easy, but we know so much about them already that they don’t fit neatly into our models of the solar system. website News reports Moreover, the orbital inclination of some TNO objects, i.e. deviation from the plane of the solar system, is greater than 45 degrees. However, models of the solar system’s formation cannot explain what could cause so many celestial bodies to deviate. There are some extreme cases. One of them is the asteroid Sedna, the closest point of its orbit to the Sun is about 76 astronomical units, and its furthest point is more than 900 astronomical units. The configuration of such an extreme orbit can only be deduced with great difficulty from the gravitational influence of known planets. According to researchers, these anomalies can be explained by the presence of a planet similar to Neptune or Uranus, orbiting hundreds of astronomical units from the Sun.

However, two Japanese researchers recently came to an interesting result after using computer simulations to analyze the impact of a hypothetical planet on TNOs. They believe that there is no need for a giant planet to explain these anomalies, but rather a single Earth-sized planet with a mass ranging from one and a half to three times the mass of our planet and orbiting at a distance of between 250 and 500 astronomical units in the so-called Kuiper. belt. But not in the plane of the solar system, but in an orbit that differs from it by about 45 degrees.

According to the researchers, the existence of such a planet would not be surprising at all, because according to their models, up to a hundred planets at least the size of Earth could have formed outside the orbit of Neptune in the early system, most of which were ejected from the solar system over time. However, it is possible that some of them have remained within the gyre and have been orbiting the Sun ever since, albeit in a very distant orbit.

Identification is difficult

However, neither the supposed giant exoplanet nor the Earth-sized planet have been found so far. For now, we can only rely on the orbital evasions of faint and distant TNO objects for our search. Researchers are now working to develop more detailed models to determine where the suspected planet’s orbit may be and determine the search path. This is not a simple matter at all. The planet, if it does exist, orbits very far from the Sun and is therefore very faint. In addition, it may happen that it passes in front of the bright background of the Milky Way, making it difficult to recognize again.

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There are also ideas by which it could be detected more easily based on its radiation temperature. If it has moons, it could heat up due to the tidal effect. Of course, this warming should not be understood on a terrestrial scale. The Moon’s temperature could still be below minus 170 degrees Celsius, but against a background 100 degrees colder than this, astronomers could actually observe this object. According to some researchers, mastering the research method may also be useful because it is not unlikely that after the discovery of Planet Nine, new large objects could be found in the outer, as-yet-unexplored regions of the solar system.

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