There may be an Earth-like planet in the outer solar system

Japanese scientists said in a study published last week that an Earth-like planet may be hiding in the outer solar system and could help explain some properties of the Kuiper belt, a ring of icy bodies that orbit the solar system in the region beyond the orbit of Neptune.

The peer-reviewed study, published in The Astronomical Journal A team from the American Astronomical Society examined patterns observed in “trans-Neptunian objects” (TNOs) – rocky and icy bodies left over from the planet-formation period in our solar system. The study was conducted by scientists from Kindai University, the Japan National Astronomical Observatory and the Chiba Institute of Technology.

Astronomers estimate that there are millions of small, icy objects in the Kuiper Belt, according to NASA. Hundreds of thousands of objects are more than 60 miles across, and some, like Pluto in the belt, are more than 600 miles across. (By comparison, Earth is about 8,000 miles wide.)

Secrets of the Kuiper Belt

More than 1,000 identified objects have been identified in the Kuiper Belt, although the region of space still holds many mysteries. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is so far the only spacecraft to explore the Kuiper Belt, though the mission faces the prospect of a budget cut next year.

Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud. (Credit: NASA/JPL)

Objects in the Belt have a number of strange properties: there seem to be a large number of objects that are not affected by Neptune’s gravity, and there are many objects that are tilted at an angle of more than 45 degrees relative to the plane of the Sun. system, there are a number of objects with odd orbits.

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Scientists explained that a planet with a size of about 1.5-3 times the mass of Earth, is located between 250-500 astronomical units (the astronomical unit is about the distance from Earth to the Sun, 93 million miles), and is inclined 30 degrees compared to Earth. Solar system plane.

Such a planet would also help explain the properties of bodies that are or are sometimes affected by the gravitational pull of Neptune.

Scientists indicated that their theory can be tested by searching for groups of trans-Neptunian objects in regions located more than 150 astronomical units away, as the planet they propose will create such groups of objects. However, the probability of discovering or observing a planet will be affected by its size and how far away it is.

Scientists added that more detailed knowledge about the orbital structure of the Kuiper Belt will help detect or rule out the existence of the planet they assume. The discovery of such a planet may also affect how we understand planet formation in the region beyond Jupiter.

The newly proposed Planet vs. Planet 9

Scientists have repeatedly examined the possibility of a ninth planet (commonly referred to as Planet 9 or Planet X) lurking in the outer solar system, although many studies have assumed that such a planet would be much larger than Earth.

a Preprint study Research published earlier this year suggested that such a massive planet could be discovered by looking for moons that might orbit it, as the moons could be heated by the gravitational pull between the planet and the moons.

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The planet has been further proposed as a way to explain the behavior of trans-Neptunian objects located very far out in the outer solar system, near the edges or outside the Kuiper belt.

The new study published last week notes that although Planet 9 explains the properties of some distant bodies in the outer solar system, it does not address the structure of the Kuiper Belt.

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