New data teases enormous 'Planet Nine' may exist

Researchers say new data suggests a massive planet, one about ten times the size of Earth, circles the Sun in a huge orbit that takes between 10,000 and 20,000 years. This celestial body has been dubbed 'Planet Nine,' and assuming it exists, it lies far out in the solar system in the Kuiper belt. Alas, no one has actually seen Planet Nine at this point in time.

The new data comes from astronomers Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin who detailed their thoughts in a new Astronomical Journal paper. The researchers cite how KBOs — Kuiper Belt Objects, that is — move about, indicating something big like Planet Nine may exist. Other researchers seem split, with some saying the evidence is very strong, and others expressing doubt about such a massive planet.

The idea of Planet Nine's existence isn't entirely new — it came about in 2014. However, due to the planet's orbit, it spends most of its time very far away from the sun, coming no closer than 200 astronomical units at its closest point. In comparison, Pluto is 48 astronomical units from the Sun at its furthest orbit. This combined with its very long orbit makes getting an image of the planet extremely difficult.

That doesn't mean the researchers haven't tried; so far Brown and Batygin have used the Subaru telescope in Hawaii to try and spot Planet Nine. While that hasn't been successful, more powerful telescopes are being constructed, and one of them may be powerful enough to get a glimpse in the relatively near future.

You can find the full paper here.

SOURCE: Nature