Scientists Say New 'Planet 9' Evidence May Solve the Greatest Mystery in Our Solar System
Despite several doomsday prophecies involving a hidden ninth planet in our solar system, astronomers (not doomsayers) may be the ones who finally prove its existence: an international team of scientists has published new research on a remote Trans-Neptunian Object (or TNO) named 2015 BP519 that orbits the Sun with a bizarrely tilted orbit, and right now a ninth planet offers the best answer for its strange behavior.
As of today, no one has ever spotted Planet Nine directly.
Instead, astronomers have relied on tracking the movement of TNOs, which are balls of ice and dust that zoom around the outer edges of our solar system, outside the orbit of Neptune.
Astronomers have noted for a while that the orbits and positioning of a large number of TNOs seem to follow a strange pattern, which is most likely explained by the existence of a massive object pulling on them with its gravity.
There's been a number of studies that have offered evidence for the existence of Planet Nine, but this new research provides one of the most persuasive arguments yet.
What makes 2015 BP519 special is that its orbit is tilted about 54 degrees off the solar system's normal "plane," which is the highest tilt of any Trans-Neptunian Object.
If you imagined the solar system as a flat, invisible tabletop with the Sun at the center, most of the other planets' orbits would stay on the tabletop's surface, while some would dip below and rise above it as they made their way around the Sun.
That invisible surface is the solar system's "plane," and compared to it, 2015 BP519's orbit is heavily skewed.
There are a couple hypotheses for what may have thrown its orbit off-kilter, but when researchers ran simulations on potential causes, they found that if they simulated a planet with properties like those proposed by a CalTech team in 2016, the orbit suddenly made sense. For something as extreme as 2015 BP519, the fact that this hypothetical planet slots perfectly into the simulation to explain that skewed orbit is remarkable.
To be clear, this new research doesn't confirm the existence of Planet Nine, but it doesn't take the gang from Scooby-Doo to realize that the evidence is piling up heavily in its favor.