The question of whether the 9th planet exists still fires scientists’ discussions

It was only restored to the astronomical candlestick by the research of Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin, who, observing the transneptunic objects discovered a short time earlier, came to the conclusion that their unusual orbits are a strong evidence for the existence of an object weighing 10 Earth masses, on the distant periphery of our system (its semi-axis the great would be about 700 AU at 30 AU). The simulations they carried out at that time explained quite well some of the unusual phenomena observed about these distant objects.

It exists or… does not exist

The work caused quite a ferment in the scientific community, and even more in the media, which announced the discovery of “Planet Nine”, which of course was not true. Some scientists quickly began to question the conclusions of Brown and Batygin, claiming that the described effect may be the result of the cumulative gravitational interaction of many small objects circulating there.

Now that the discussion has faded, it has been reignited by the article “No Evidence for Orbital Clustering in Extreme Trans-Neptunian Objects,” published in January this year. Some media publicized it by giving sensational titles saying that the 9th planet does not exist, even though scientists themselves do not prejudge anything like that.

Interesting, doesn’t mean revolutionary

Meanwhile, the work primarily supplements the data on which Brown and Batygin were based with new, interesting data. Since the time of the first article, many new objects have been discovered, and new research technologies have allowed for a more accurate determination of the orbits of their orbits. The data was also standardized in terms of the techniques of their collection so as to reduce errors resulting from measurement differences.

They result in conclusions consistent with the title of the work, i.e. there is no evidence that a hypothetical planet is needed for such a distribution of objects. Scientists do not rule out its existence, although they tend to make it unlikely. The most important conclusion is … postulates for conducting further observations, so as to identify as many similar objects as possible, so that they expand our knowledge about this seemingly chaotic region.

A clue duel

The work sparked a discussion between the authors of both papers, in the course of which, of course, there was no consensus, both sides actually pointed to the weakness of measuring methods used today, which make both theories impossible to disprove or confirm. Each of the parties pointed to examples of objects that better fit in with their theses, but no one went to bed as a “rebound”.

The website representing Planet 9 also talked about the unsuccessful attempts to detect this body to date and the hopes related to the construction of the Vera Rubin observatory in Chile. It was also emphasized that the existence of similar planets has been observed outside our planetary system, which makes it more likely to be created “here”.

In the end, both the new work and the discussion did not change anything in our state of knowledge about unusual phenomena occurring in that area. However, it gave us the opportunity to read an interesting exchange of views, catch interesting facts about objects rarely discussed, even on astronomical portals, and proved that this topic still warms both scientists and people simply fascinated with space.

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