Gravitational "bumper cars" could put Planet Nine hypothesis on ice

Planet nine theory Solar system

Experts at the University of Colorado designed the space and found that a small celestial body, such as asteroids, their orbits move much faster from more objects like Sedna.

Dwarf planets like Sedna take more than 11,000 years to orbit the sun along lengthy circular orbits. "I think we can solve a lot of these problems by just taking into account that question".

After calculating the orbits of the "detached objects" in the Kuiper Belt, Sedna included, the CU Boulder team discovered that these small bumps and jostles in outer space make for a more plausible explanation for the orbital oddity that the existence of Planet Nine.

Fleisig and other researchers used computer simulations to find that these small, icy objects orbit the sun at a quicker clip than bigger ones like Sedna.

Planet Nine was first hypothesised in 2014, when researchers noticed that some of the space rocks out past Neptune, known as trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs), have unusually looping orbits, "detached" from the strong gravitational influence of the larger gas giants in the Solar System.

Detached objects like Sedna get their name because they complete enormous, circular orbits that bring them nowhere close to big planets like Jupiter or Neptune.

If the small gravitational interactions among TNOs are hurling objects like Sedna outward, they could also send some of the rocks into the inner solar system.

This research was supported by NASA Solar System Workings and the Rocky Mountain Advanced Computing Consortium Summit Supercomputer.

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The researchers calculated the mass of hundreds of trans-Neptunian objects and discovered that it wouldn't be a stretch for similar bodies to create enough gravitational pull to yank objects as large as dwarf planets into freaky orbits. They outlined their research at the 232nd meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Denver, Colorado.

"They are what's causing this detachment, and not an unseen ninth planet", study lead author Jacob Fleisig, an undergraduate astrophysicist at the university, said during the conference.

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. Using the simulations, they had calculated that the orbits of icy objects beyond Neptune circle the sun like the hands of a clock. "These orbits crash into the bigger body, and what happens is those interactions will change its orbit from an oval shape to a more circular shape".

These bumper car-like interactions can explain numerous anomalies out there, without needing to invent a huge Planet Nine.

These findings are supported by a 2012 study, which revealed that bigger "detached objects" tend to wander farther away from the sun, notes CU Boulder. While the researchers couldn't directly connect their observations to the collision that wiped out the dinosaurs and most life on Earth, Fleisig called the possibility "tantalizing".

Remarkably, these relatively insignificant objects may also be culpable in the extinction of the dinosaurs.

'While we're not able to say that this pattern killed the dinosaurs.

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