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A Giant Planet–Neptune Sized–May Have Been Found

January 21, 2016

You might recall that it was Michael Brown who was first in line in 2006 to strip Pluto it of its “planet” designation.  Recall also how we growled at him, thinking it all very insensitive to have our favorite planet re-named a ‘dwarf planet’?  Now it is that same astronomer shaking the science world, along with planetary scientist Konstantin Batygin, as they announce what they think is a highly likely discovery of a new planet to replace Pluto.    (But can Pluto every really be replaced?)

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Mike Brown (left) and Konstantin Batygin

A computer analysis Dr Batygin and Dr Brown performed suggests this something is a planet weighing 5-15 times as much as Earth, whose perihelion is on the opposite side of the sun from the cluster, and which thus orbits mainly on the other side of the solar system from the objects its orbit has affected. This planet’s perihelion would be 200 times farther from the sun than Earth’s, and the far end of its orbit might be as much as six times that distance away. This gives a search zone, and Dr Batygin and Dr Brown are using Subaru, a Japanese telescope, to perform that search.

Nicknamed Planet Nine, it “has a mass about 10 times that of Earth and orbits about 20 times farther from the sun” than Neptune. That means “it would take this new planet between 10,000 and 20,000 years to make just one orbit around the sun.

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