Planet Nine Might Not Be Responsible For Bizarre Orbits Of Distant Objects

Katie Ramirez
June 7, 2018

University of Colorado Boulder Assistant Professor Ann-Marie Madigan and a team of researchers have offered up a new theory for the existence of planetary oddities like Sedna.

In the years since, more evidence of a ninth planet has turned up in the orbits of trans-Neptunian objects and the wobble of the Sun, while other astronomers have modeled its composition and even floated the idea of a Mars-sized 10th planet. Dubbed Planet Nine, this mysterious body could actually be a cluster of asteroids and other space rocks that are firing comets into the Solar System. The orbits of smaller objects, such as asteroids, however, move faster than the larger ones, such as Sedna.

A new theory presented at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society contends that the detached objects interact like bumper cars, creating the unusual movements that appear to defy what we can see in the solar system so far. Possible separate object is Sedna, the perihelion of which is two times beyond the orbit of the eighth planet.

In the far reaches of the Solar System, objects go into some weird orbits, and astronomers have been baffled as to why. Somewhat smaller than Pluto but still large enough to be rounded by its own gravity, Sedna, which is located 8 billion miles from the Sun, takes 11,000 years to complete one solar orbit.

The problem is, despite several years of searching, Planet 9 has not appeared.

To understand it, the authors of the work hypothesized that these objects, orbiting the Sun, continually collide with each other (and with other "passenger" debris): the interactions resulting from these shocks, according to computerized simulations, they might be sufficient to explain the anomalies without resorting to the cumbersome hypothesis of the presence of a ninth planet: "These objects", explains Jacob Fleisig, one of the authors of the work, "orbit the Sun like the hands of a clock".

Repeated interaction cycles among large and small TNOs may be responsible for pushing comets into the inner solar system on regular timescales.

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"Planet Nine explains this really well, and we do not", Madigan said.

'These orbits crash into the bigger body, and what happens is those interactions will change its orbit from an oval shape to a more circular shape'.

The researchers presented their findings today at a press briefing at the 232nd meeting of the American Astronomical Society, which runs from June 3-7 in Denver, Colorado.

These groupings of distant asteroids and other small objects could also interact with comets lurking out on the chilled edges of our solar system, tightening and widening their orbits over and over again.

"While we're not able to say that this pattern killed the dinosaurs", Fleisig said, "it's tantalizing".

Well, as it turns out, the new theory that axes Planet Nine might also be tied to the dinosaur extinction.

According to the team, the dinosaur-killing asteroid that hammered our planet 65 million years ago, wiping out almost 75 percent of life on Earth, could have been sent on its collision path by the periodic comet showers that turned up in Fleisig's computer model.

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