Caltech astronomers find evidence of planet


The potential planet discovered by Caltech’s Mike Brown is believed to be in orbit far beyond Pluto. Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, said, “The possibility of a new planet is certainly an exciting one for me as a planetary scientist and for all of us.” Photo taken from

According to NASA’s website, the solar system currently has eight official planets. However, on Jan. 20, Caltech planetary scientists Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown announced the finding of a celestial body about Neptune’s size. The characteristics of this Planet X may lead to the announcement of a ninth planet.

Just last December, two claims of Planet X were submitted to ArXiv, a database for scientific papers in the fields of mathematics, physics, astronomy, computer science, quantitative biology, statistics, and quantitative finance.

Caltech’s Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown, who is infamous for “killing pluto,” made the discovery of the planet.

“We have found evidence that there’s a giant planet in the outer solar system,” Brown said. “By ‘giant’ we mean the size of Neptune, and when we say ‘outer solar system’ we mean 10 to 20 times farther away than Pluto.”

Brown and Batygin believe that the planet took so long to find because when it was developing, it did not accumulate enough gas or ice to become a large planet like Neptune. There wasn’t enough room for it to grow, so Planet X was the only planet to get kicked out and take its own orbit.

“The discovery of Neptune is somewhat similar to the possible discovery of this Planet X,” Mr. Brooks-Hedstrom, astronomy teacher, said. “Observations of unusual or unexpected motions of other objects leads to predictions, which then lead to direct observations of the new planet.”

However, the newly found planet has not been officially classified. Astronomers including Brown will have to continue to study its orbit based on the mathematical prediction.

“The possibility of a new planet is certainly an exciting one for me as a planetary scientist and for all of us,” Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, said. “This is not, however, the detection or discovery of a new planet. It’s too early to say with certainty there’s a so-called Planet X. What we’re seeing is an early prediction based on modeling from limited observations. It’s the start of a process that could lead to an exciting result.”

This discovery could lead to the addition of another planet to our solar system.

“If there’s this one, why not some others? It doesn’t prove anything at this point, but it makes you wonder about all the strange possibilities,” Mr. Brooks-Hedstrom said. “It’s kind of exciting that even our own immediate astronomical neighborhood might be hiding all kinds of secrets. Textbook authors write things like ‘The Solar System has eight planets’ and it sounds definitive, like the story is over. But really they should write ‘we know of eight planets in our solar system, but there could be more out there, waiting for you to discover them!’”

By Sara Hagan


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

  • Note:

    The Dome is not responsible for the content of externally linked sites
%d bloggers like this: