A mysterious “planetary object” at least the size of Mars is orbiting the outer fringes of the Solar System, scientists suggest, and an even larger planet may lurk farther away.
Astronomers with the University of Arizona made the shocking discovery that the solar system’s outer Kuiper Belt is warped, and the most likely scenario is that there’s a major planet with an orbit around 60 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun.
“According to our calculations, something as massive as Mars would be needed to cause the warp that we measured,” said Kat Volk, who’s leading the study at the university.
The other possibility is that a rogue star passed close by the solar system, but the math suggests this is unlikely.
“That would have required an extremely close passage at about 100 astronomical units, and the warp would be erased within 10 million years, so we don’t consider this a likely scenario,” she pointed out.
The idea of a distant planet was first proposed by numerous ancient civilizations, particularly the Sumerians who said that ‘Planet X’ dwarfs Earth and bombards the solar system with comets every several thousand years.
However, while UA suggested a massive Planet X may exist, they believe it’s much larger and much further away than the proposed Mars-size planet.
And there could even be more planets currently unknown.
Notably, the astronomers who proposed the colossal Planet X, which they expect is as big as Uranus and orbits the Sun around 20 times farther away than Neptune, said it’s possible the planet is responsible for ancient mass extinctions by flinging “comet storms” toward Earth, which collaborates with the Sumerian legend.
The big takeaway from the study is how mysterious and unknown the fringes of the Solar System remain to astronomers – and how the ancients may have been right after all.
The UA said the reason why the planets remain unseen is because astronomers haven’t explored every section of the sky for Kuiper Belt objects, and the areas they have explored are sometimes densely packed with stars.
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