by Elizabeth Gamillo/Smithsonianmag.com
The hidden Planet Nine first made headlines in 2016 when Caltech researchers Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin found evidence of a massive object ten times the size of Earth orbiting 20 times farther away from the sun than Neptune. Using computer simulations and modeling, Planet Nine was found based on observing six “extreme” Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs) that appeared clustered together. The orbits of the TNOs were tilted and elongated towards the sun, leaving Brown and Batygin to suspect the TNOs were bunched together because of Planet Nine’s gravitational pull, reports Victor Tangermann for Futurism.
But a recent study carried out by Kevin Napier, a physics Ph.D. student at the University of Michigan, and his colleagues could challenge Brown and Batygin’s analysis.
Napier and his team suggest that selection bias led Brown and Batygin to hypothesize Planet Nine’s existence, and the “cluster” of TNOs may not have been caused by the gravitational pull of Planet Nine. Instead, Napier’s team suggest the objects appeared clumped together because Brown and Batygin only observed a small portion of the sky, during a specific part of the year, at a specific time of day, reports Daniel Van Boom for CNET.