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Until now no one has been able to see the alleged “Planet Nine”. (Artist's impression) © Caltech/R. Hurt (AIPAC)

There may be a previously undiscovered ninth planet at the edge of our solar system. A new study on “Planet 9” now gives hope.

FRANKFURT – There may be a previously undiscovered ninth planet in the dark outer reaches of our solar system. This is what a research team led by Konstantin Batygin and Michael Brown have been saying for years. Since then, the team has been getting closer and closer to the mysterious “Planet 9” in numerous studies – and is now embarking on a new study that has so far yielded only one new study. It has been published on the ArXiv preprint server He presented a “new line of evidence.”

According to various research teams, the existence of a ninth planet is suggested primarily by the orbits of so-called “trans-Neptunian objects” (TNOs). These are celestial bodies beyond Neptune, including the dwarf planet Pluto. Their orbits appear to be influenced by a mass that appears to exist in the solar system but has not yet been discovered. From this, Batygin and Brown concluded in 2016 that there must be a ninth planet in the solar system that affects TNOs.

New simulations indicate the existence of “Planet 9”.

In the new study, the research team looked at TNOs that interact with Neptune's orbit and whose orbits are therefore difficult to understand. As a rule, they are excluded from the search for “Planet 9”. The research team ran two different simulations, one that took into account the effect of Planet Nine's gravity on TNOs in the outer solar system, and one that did not take into account the mass of the hypothetical “Planet Nine.”

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“Our calculations show that the distribution of observed orbits strongly supports the existence of the unseen planet,” the team wrote in the study. Compared with the independent Batygin gets more specific: The new study is “the strongest statistical evidence to date that 'Planet Nine' actually exists,” Batygin says.

Searching for “Planet 9”: Does the hypothetical celestial body not exist?

The search for “Planet 9” is complex, as several research teams have been studying the mysterious celestial body for years. For example, there are theories that “Planet 9” is something other than a planet, such as a black hole in the solar system. Another research team proposes a theory that “Planet 9” may not exist at all. An astronomer has an idea to find “Planet 9” based on its possible moons.

The hope of many researchers now rests on the Vera Rubin Observatory, which is currently being built in Chile and will not be operational until 2025 at the earliest. The reflecting telescope is supposed to be able to image the entire accessible sky over three nights, thus aiding in the search for “Planet 9.” “It is exciting that the dynamics described here, along with all the other evidence on Planet 9, will soon be subjected to rigorous testing when the Vera Rubin Observatory becomes operational,” the study says. Moreover: “This next phase of exploration promises to provide important insights into the secrets of the outer limits of our solar system.” (unpaid bill)