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Caltech Researchers Find Evidence of a Real Ninth Planet

Caltech researchers have found evidence of a giant planet tracing a bizarre, highly elongated orbit in the distant solar system.

Media Contact:
Deborah Williams-Hedges
Caltech Strategic Communications
debwms@caltech.edu, 626-395-3227 

Video

Evidence of a Ninth Planet

Caltech's Konstantin Batygin, an assistant professor of planetary science,
and Mike Brown, the Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor of Planetary Astronomy, discuss new research that provides evidence of a giant planet tracing a bizarre, highly elongated orbit in the outer solar system.

Credit: Caltech AMT

Download file: MP4, MOV

 

 

Planet Nine Animation

0:00
Zooming out from the orbit of Neptune, we see the six aligned objects, and how they fall within the same plane.

00:38
Planet Nine is required to be anti-aligned to these objects, but shares the same plane.

00:56
The presence of Planet Nine also forces objects into orbits that are perpendicular to the plane of the solar system and oriented at right angles to Planet Nine.

Credit: Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)

Download file: M4VMOV


 

Images and Graphics

Planet Nine—Artist's Representation

This is a distant view from Planet Nine back towards the sun. The planet is thought to be gaseous, similar to Uranus and Neptune. Hypothetical lightning lights up the night side.

Credit: Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)

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Mysterious Orbital Alignment

The six most distant known objects in the solar system with orbits exclusively beyond Neptune (magenta) all mysteriously line up in a single direction. Moreover, when viewed in three dimensions, they are all tilted nearly identically away from the plane of the solar system. Such an orbital alignment can only be maintained by some outside force. In their new paper, Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown show that a planet with 10 times the mass of the earth in a distant eccentric orbit anti-aligned with the other six objects (orange) is required to maintain this configuration.

The diagram was created using WorldWide Telescope.

Credit: Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)

Download larger version: JPEGTIFF

 Orbital Predictions

A predicted consequence of Planet Nine is that a second set of confined objects should also exist. These objects are forced into positions at right angles to Planet Nine and into orbits that are perpendicular to the plane of the solar system. Five known objects (blue) fit this prediction precisely.

The diagram was created using WorldWide Telescope.

Credit: Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)

Download larger version: JPEG, TIFF

 

A Perfect Partnership

Caltech professor Mike Brown and assistant professor Konstanin Batygin have been working together to investigate distant objects in our solar system for more than a year and a half. The two bring very different perspectives to the work: Brown is an observer, used to looking at the sky to try and anchor everything in the reality of what can be seen; Batygin is a theorist who considers how things might work from a physics standpoint.

Credit: Lance Hayashida/Caltech

Download larger version: JPEG

 

News Story

 Download the research news story (.docx).

Additional Resources

Caltech

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