Astronomers discover a bizarre exoplanet acting like the elusive planet nine


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Astronomers have yet to find planet nine, a hypothetical planet in the outermost region of the solar system. According to calculations by some scientists, this hypothetical planet could have a mass about 10 times that of Earth and an elongated orbit that is on average 20 times further from the sun than Neptune.

In a new study published in The Astronomical Journal, researchers sketch new information about an extrasolar planet, known as HD 106906 b, that appears to behave similarly to the elusive planet Nine.

Although HD 106906 b was first discovered in 2013 using the Magellan telescopes at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile’s Atacama Desert, astronomers only recently discovered information about the planet’s orbit using the Hubble Space Telescope , which was launched into low Earth orbit in 1990. study shows that HD 106906 b is 336 light-years from Earth and orbits a few guest stars. The exoplanet is also huge, measuring 11 times that of Jupiter.

“The exoplanet is extremely distant from its host pair of bright young stars – more than 730 times the distance from Earth to the sun. This wide division made it hugely challenging to determine the 15,000-year orbit in such a short span of time from Hubble observations. The planet is creeping along its orbit very slowly, given the weak gravity of its very distant parent stars, ”the Hubble Space Telescope facility said in a press release.

Astronomers were also surprised to learn that the exoplanet has an elongated and inclined orbit unlike any other known planets in our solar system.

“To emphasize why this is weird, we can just look at our own solar system and see that all the planets are roughly in the same plane,” said the study’s lead author, Meiji Nguyen of the University of California, Berkeley, in a statement. stated the release. “It would be bizarre if, say, Jupiter happened to be inclined 30 degrees from the plane in which every other planet orbits. This raises all kinds of questions about how HD 106906 b got so far into such a sloping track. “

Researchers believe the exoplanet may have formed close to its host stars. However, the resistance over time caused the orbit of the exoplanet to decay, migrating “inward” to the stars.

The gravitational pull of the spinning twin stars then kicked it out in an eccentric orbit that nearly threw it out of the system and into the void of interstellar space. Then a star passed very close to this system, stabilizing the orbit of the exoplanet and preventing it from leaving its home system, ”explains the Hubble Space Telescope press release.

This same theory can also be used to explain what pushed the hypothetical planet Nine to the outskirts of the solar system. The planet could have formed in the inner solar system before being expelled by interactions with Jupiter. Because interactions with Jupiter may have pushed Planet Nine far beyond Pluto, the prevailing theory is that passing stars may have stabilized Planet Nine’s orbit by shifting the orbit path of Jupiter and the other planets of the solar system.

“It’s like we have a time machine for our own solar system going back 4.6 billion years to see what might have happened when our young solar system was dynamically active and everything was pushed around and rearranged,” explains research team member Paul Kalas.

Astronomers plan to further study HD 106906 b to learn more about how it was formed.

“Despite planet Nine’s lack of detection so far, the planet’s orbit can be inferred based on its effect on the different objects in the outer solar system,” noted study co-author Robert De Rosa. “This suggests that if a planet were indeed responsible for what we perceive in the orbits of trans-Neptunian objects, it should have an eccentric orbit that is inclined to the plane of the solar system. This prediction of Planet Nine’s orbit is similar to what we see with HD 106906 b. “

The search for Planet Nine began in 2014 after astronomers Chad Trujillo and Scott Sheppard suggested that a large and invisible planet could exist outside of Neptune and that such a planet could cause gravitational oddities in the orbits of distant objects such as the dwarf planets Sedna and 2012 VP113.