Elusive Planet Nine Lurks In The Shadows, Here's Why It's 'Invisible'

Neptune at opposition Planet in deep space

Neptune at opposition Planet in deep space

The planet, named Planet Nine, is believed to be 10 times bigger than Earth and 20 times farther out from the sun than Neptune - the outer-most planet in the solar system. They suggested the orbits of these lumps of ice - so-called Trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) - were warped by the gravitational pull of a ninth planet in the solar system.

The endlessly wide expanse of the solar system is also a considerable challenge for scientists who have to sweep the area for hints of Planet Nine.

Considering Pluto was deemed not worthy to be the ninth planet (and is now considered to be a dwarf planet), the one that would replace it only existed in theory. At that distance, the equivalent, of 600 astronomical units (1 AU is defined as the distance between the Earth and the Sun, or approximately 93 million miles), it would be 160,000 times dimmer than Neptune is.

Dr Surhud More, an associated professor at the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe at the University of Tokyo, told the Washington Post: "Every time we take a picture there is this possibility that Planet Nine exists in the shot".

Another thing to consider is the wavelength of light that should be coming from Planet Nine. It's like the Loch Ness monster of planets - it might exist, or it might not, but scientists think they have evidence that something is out there.

University of IL cosmologist Gilbert Holder is optimistic that the millimeter telescopes in Antarctica and Chile would be able to detect the Planet Nine today if it happens to stray across their search field.

"The radius of the earth's orbit around the sun is about the space between my fingers", said Jason Kendall, an astronomer at William Patterson University.

The Subaru Telescope in Hawaii, Earth's most massive potent observatory can view a field in the sky about the size of 4,000 full moons at once.

Sheppard is convinced that Planet Nine is out there.

The efforts, however, do not guarantee the discovery of the planet as it could remain hidden amid the light pollution of the Milky Way.

Worse, the body could be in its orbit where it is beyond the 1,000-AU wall and it can take thousands of years before the planet would swing back around.

Why cannot astronomers see the "perturber" that could be Planet number nine?

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