Since the discovery of Planet Nine several years ago scientists have been debating its existence. However, a new study has established the orbit of this alleged celestial object.
Caltech researchers Mike Brown (Caltech) and Konstantin Batygin (Caltech) have plotted the orbital course of the mysterious planet. This path has yet to been discovered.
In a blog post, Brown detailed that the ‘highest probability’ of Planet Nine’s location is near aphelion – the point at which it is furthest from the sun – around 60 degrees in Right Ascension, ‘pretty close to the galactic plane
If Planet Nine was actually at the median distance from aphelion, it would be approximately 500 astronomical units or approximately 46.5 million miles from the sun.
Astronomers use 360° to plot the full-sky.
The researchers explained that they used samples of the orbital elements as well as estimates of the radius, albedo, and radius of such a planet to calculate the probability distribution function for the on-sky location of Planet Nine and its brightness.
“For many reasonable assumptions, Planet Nine appears closer and brighter to us than we initially thought. However, the probability distribution has a long tail that can be extended to greater distances. Uncertainties in the radius or albedo of Planet Nine could lead to fainter objects.
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Brown and Batygin compiled the map after looking at the Kuiper Belt’s known objects. These icy bodies are past Neptune. Many of these have strange orbits, which the researchers suspect may be caused by Planet Nine.
Researchers used the clustering in the Kuiper Belt Objects to indicate that Planet Nine existed, given the unusual nature of such an event.
“After updating calculation of observational biases we find that clustering remains significant at 99.6% confidence level,” the study’s authors wrote. This means there is only 0.4% chance of clustering being an odd, fluky event.
More than 2,000 objects in the Kuiper Belt have been identified, but there could be ‘hundreds of thousands’ more in the region, according to NASA.