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ę Don't Look Now, But Bernie Sanders Has Won Seven In a Row | Main | What the Hell Are the "Panama Papers" Anyway? Ľ
April 11, 2016

Scientists: There May or May Not be A Hitherto-Unknown "Planet Nine" in the Distant Outreaches of the Solar System Tugging at the Cassini Probe

So the New York Post's coverage isn't very restrained: There is some chance Planet Nine may suddenly disturb one of the massive asteroids and comets in the outskirts of the solar system, and it could maybe send that flying towards the inner solar system and maybe earth itself.

Here's their coverage of it: Caution: Loud Autoplay video.

The hubbub has to do with distant icy objects in the so-called Kuiper Belt at the outer limits of the Solar System being disturbed by some unknown source of gravity beyond our ability to detect (so far). Scientists think it might be another planet, never yet seen, but maybe a large "super-earth" ten times the mass of earth.

This BBC article is more reassuring, or, perhaps, disappointing: No, Planet 9 Is Not Going to Kill Us.

You might have seen articles claiming that Planet 9's gravity could send asteroids from the Kuiper belt flying towards Earth and that this is what has caused mass extinctions in the past (and could again).

The Kuiper belt is a distant ring of bodies made up of things like ice, methane and rock.


"Apart from the extinction of the dinosaurs we don't seem to have any evidence that mass extinctions throughout the history of the Earth are caused by large impacts like you get from a comet or asteroid."


Matthew thinks some reports are getting confused with an old discredited idea (the Nemesis theory).

This was when scientists put forward the idea that a huge star orbiting the Sun could, through its gravity, affect objects from the far solar system and throw them onto a collision course with Earth. Scientists thought this could explain a number of mass extinctions.

However so far no evidence has been found to suggest there even is a "death star"...

There seems to be some mass previously unknown outside the Kuiper Belt, but some scientists say it's not a planet -- it's just a second Kuiper Belt we didn't know about.

The announcement of a possible large ninth planet in our solar system way beyond Neptune last month caused a lot of excitement, needless to say. If confirmed, it may be similar to "super-Earth" type exoplanets which have been found to be plentiful around other stars, although none, that we knew of, around ours. At this point, however, it is still a well-presented theory. Now, there's another possibility which has been offered to explain the weird orbits of some of the small Kuiper Belt objects -- not a large planet, but rather a second Kuiper Belt consisting of many smaller objects instead.

The new findings have been presented by researchers Ann-Marie Madigan and Michael McCourt at Harvard University, who suggest that Planet 9 may really be "a new Kuiper Belt that's far more massive than the current-day Kuiper Belt, at larger distances, and preferentially lifted off the plane of the major planets," as noted in New Universe Daily. The theory will be published soon in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The hypothesis is similar to the ninth planet one in that it says that there must be more mass farther out in the Solar System to account for the odd orbits of some of the Kuiper Belt objects. But whether that mass is one larger planet or several, or more, smaller ones, isnít known yet. The new theory says that multiple smaller objects, like those found in the known Kuiper Belt, are more likely than one larger planet.

That article is pretty good explaining things.

This is the paper that started the excitement: "Evidence for a Distant Giant Planet in the Solar System."

Well, I think the NY Post is right: The Sweet Meteor of Death is a little late, but it's coming.

Tanned, ready, and rested, the Sweet Meteor of Death is on its way.


A little Science! (TM) for you on this slow news day.

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