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Counter-order, the Nine Planet does not exist
07 June 2018, 03:26 | Edward Lowe
"There are so many of these bodies out there", says Anne-Marie Madigan, co-author of the new study. It is a bit smaller than Pluto and takes more than 11,000 years to complete one trip around the sun. "I think we can solve a lot of these problems by just taking into account that question".
Some TNOs are "detached objects", which orbit so far from the sun that they're not appreciably affected by the gravity of Neptune or any other known planet. The team compared the movements to the hands of a clock - smaller objects like asteroids move fast like minute hands, while the larger objects like Sedna move relatively slower, like hour hands. If the theory is correct, it would mean that there is no Planet Nine, but that there's potentially thousands of smaller, undetected objects cruising around near the edge of our system.
Detached objects like Sedna get their name because they complete very large, circular orbits that bring them nowhere close to big planets like Jupiter or Neptune.
In the far reaches of the Solar System, objects go into some weird orbits, and astronomers have been baffled as to why. For some years now, researchers have speculated that something is pulling these objects away from the plane where the system's major planets are orbiting, giving them a downward inclination of 30 degrees.
As Bennett reports, the search for Planet 9 began in 2014 with the publication of study showing that two objects that orbit the sun beyond Neptune (Sedna and 2012 VP113) had nearly circular orbits.
The explanation may come from "bumper car-like interactions" going on in the Kuiper Belt and which cause these "detached objects" to slam into each other and collide with space debris.
An artist's impression of the dwarf planet Sedna, some 12.9 billion kilometres (8 billion miles) from the sun, along with a hypothetical moon.
Fleisig ran a computer model for the orbits of these unusual distant objects and uncovered that they move a lot like hands on a clock.
"You see a pileup of the orbits of smaller objects to one side of the sun".
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Repeated interaction cycles among large and small TNOs may be responsible for pushing comets into the inner solar system on regular timescales. "These orbits crash into the bigger body (a large TNO, not a gas giant), and what happens is those interactions will change its orbit from an oval shape to a more circular shape", he said.
Planet Nine has not been confirmed, however, and all attempts to find it have been fruitless. But because the largest objects are hurled into the most eccentric orbits, they become more hard to find, the researchers said.
Well, as it turns out, the new theory that axes Planet Nine might also be tied to the dinosaur extinction.
"The handful we've seen is not enough", Fleisig said.
It's not impossible one of these caused the collision which wiped out the dinosaurs, the researchers said.
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