Deakin Communicating Science 2016

EES 200/101

X marks the spot

planet-9_1024Figure 1: This artistic rendering shows the distant view from Planet Nine back towards the sun. Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)

So we may have yet another ninth planet in our solar system.

That’s right, Astronomer Mike Brown, who you may remember as the guy that ‘lead the charge’ to demote Pluto from a planet to a dwarf planet, along with a group of other scientists believe there is possibly a new ninth planet in our solar system. Which is somewhat ironic because before it was demoted Pluto was the most recently discovered planet.

During an observation of our solar systems Kuiper Belt and other Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNO’s) in the outer solar system. Some of the objects were not operating as they should be, that is, how they should be acting under the influence of the Suns gravitational force. The only explanation for this is there must be something massive orbiting even further away from the Sun influencing them.
Brown Says that in order to have the gravitational energy high enough to move the objects the way they are it must be at least “ten times more massive and four times the size of Earth.”
Brown Believes that this the most plausible explanation for this is a planet must be orbiting so far from the sun that a very small percentage of visible light actually reaches the planet due to the inverse-square law. Which states that “a specified physical quantity or intensity is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the source of that physical quantity.” Which would explain why it hasn’t been found yet.
420px-Inverse_square_law.svg
Figure 2 Inverse square law representation.

Planet X or planet 9, as it is being referred to, is so far away from the sun that it is estimated that it would take around a week for the suns light to reach it and that at its closest pass to the sun it is at least fifteen times further away than Pluto and it would take an estimated 10,000-20,000 years to complete one full rotation. To put that whole thing into perspective it takes a little over eight minutes for light from the sun to reach earth.

While all this information may not mean all that much to everyone it is great news for teachers and their corresponding students. If there does turn out to be a new planet in our solar system it will only be the third planet to be discovered in our solar system in modern times. Which is a pretty impressive feet for the astronomers included in Browns team at Caltech who first noticed the strange orbital patterns.

But how exciting would it be to know that there is definitely another planet present in our solar system? This could be a potentially massive discovery for Mike Brown and his co-workers.  Like so many other unknown and unseen things in our solar system it just goes to show that it’s just something else to know.

Please note: edited 7/5/2016

References:

Akwagyiram, A, BBC News, “Farewell to Pluto?” available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/4737647.stm

“The search for planet 9”, available at: http://www.findplanetnine.com/p/blog-page.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inverse-square_law

BEC CREW, “Astronomers have found evidence of huge ninth planet on the edge of the Solar System” available at: http://www.sciencealert.com/astronomers-have-found-evidence-of-huge-ninth-planet-on-the-edge-of-the-solar-system

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This entry was posted on April 17, 2016 by in Geelong - Friday 3pm, Uncategorized.

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