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Found in old images: Planet X discovered in the distant outskirts of the solar system?

Found in old images: Planet X discovered in the distant outskirts of the solar system? 1
Photo: Nasa

More recently, it was believed that people know all nine planets in the solar system. However, in 2006 Pluto was struck off the list of the “elite” of our galaxy. However, scientists remained unconvinced that there should still be nine planets near our star. Thanks to old outer space images, astronomers may have managed to find the very missing planet.

The British specialist Michael Rowan-Robinson took on such a difficult task. He used archival images of the IRAS telescope, which was launched back in the 80s of the last century. In a number of images, there was an object R20593 + 6413, which has a strongly inclined orbit and is located literally in the outskirts of our galaxy.

Found in old images: Planet X discovered in the distant outskirts of the solar system? 2
© DSS / NASA / JPL-Caltech

Scientists call the planet X the hypothetical ninth planet of the solar system. Five years ago, US planetary scientists Konstantin Batygin and Michael Brown announced that they had found proof of its existence. According to their calculations, planet X should be at least 100 billion km from the Sun, and should be similar in size to Neptune or Uranus. 

According to Batygin and Brown, the probability that there is a large planet on the outskirts of the solar system is 99.6 percent. They cherish the hope of seeing it through a wide-angle reflector telescope with three huge mirrors at the Vera Rubin Observatory in Chile, which is due to be fully operational in 2023. If, of course, they understand which way to look. Maybe Michael Rowan-Robinson will somehow need them.

However, the search for the planet has not yet brought success. The researchers only managed to narrow down the zone where it might be, and also to find new hints of its existence. Because of this, many astronomers questioned this hypothesis, and other planetary scientists began to look for alternative options for the location and appearance of Planet X.

According to the author of the new article, professor at Imperial College London, Michael Rowan-Robinson, failures in this search may be due to the fact that scientists are trying to find planet X not where it really is. Guided by this idea, he studied images of the orbiting infrared observatory IRAS.

A new location for Planet X

To analyze these images, Rowan-Robinson created an algorithm that can filter out all “unnecessary” sources of infrared radiation that are outside the solar system – stars, galaxies and other large clusters of matter. 

During his ten month work, he recorded more than a quarter of a million such objects. The professor paid particular attention to the remaining, previously unknown to scientists points that slowly moved across the sky. Their speed showed that they were neither distant light sources (such as galaxies), nor fast asteroids and comets.

Among them, there was not a single one that would satisfy the calculations of Brown and Batygin. However, there were several hundred candidates for the role of alternative versions of Planet X, located much closer to Earth.

According to available data, only one of them, object R20593 + 6413, met all the criteria, is located within the Cepheus constellation, is several times larger than the Earth and 225 times farther from the Sun than our planet. Why was this object ignored for so long? Rowan-Robinson suggested that the planet’s unusual orbit is to blame.

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Found in old images: Planet X discovered in the distant outskirts of the solar system? 3
This 1983 image shows an object suspected of being Planet 9.

The latter, according to Rowan-Robinson, may explain why planet X has not yet been found, since scientists previously did not admit that the ninth planet of the solar system could rotate in a similar orbit.

Now all that remains is to wait for scientists to undertake the confirmation of the title of the planet to a new space object. After all, now the conclusions of the astronomer are only theoretical. And a lot of work will have to be done to prove them.


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