No need for Planet Nine? Small objects’ gravity could explain weird orbits


On June 4 during a news conference, Ann-Marie Madigan said: "The picture that we are having in our mind is somewhat like a lot many little moons are present in the solar system, and they are floating around the solar system and also interacting with the comets".

Though no evidence suggests a ghostly planet exists in our stellar system, theories of the hypothetical planet, which is said to be 10 times the size of Earth, have been doing rounds for nearly two years. "We can solve a lot of these problems by just taking into account that question", she explained.

Scientists have witnessed a bunch of "detached" celestial bodies with weird orbits in the outer edges of our solar system.

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.

Evidence has been piling up for the existence of a ninth planet in our solar system, but no one has directly observed this supposedly super-Earth-sized body yet-instead, we've only seen its odd effects on the orbits of comets, asteroids, and other TNOs (Trans-Neptunian Objects). One of such objects, according to the scientists, is Sedna. During a collision with Sidney they push the object in a distant region of the Solar system. We're still researching the farthest reaches of the solar system - and still hunting for Planet 9, if it's out there to start with.

It was the dynamics of detached objects like Sedna that astrophysicist Jacob Fleisig was studying when he noticed, according to his computer simulations, that occasionally they came into alignment, like the hands of a clock. They outlined their research at the 232nd meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Denver, Colorado.

To date, researchers have discovered more than 2,300 bodies beyond Neptune's orbit - but astronomers were previously unable to explain why dwarf planets like 90377 Sedna are so far removed from the sun.

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The mysterious dwarf planet Sedna, discovered in 2003.

Fleisig ran a computer model for the orbits of these unusual distant objects and uncovered that they move a lot like hands on a clock. "These orbits crash into the bigger body (a large TNO, not a gas giant), and what happens is those interactions will change its orbit from an oval shape to a more circular shape", he said.

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.

"Planet Nine explains this really well, and we do not", admits Madigan.

The jostling of these asteroids and space junk might have led to other effects like regularly directing comets into the inner solar system - some of which could have headed toward Earth.

According to the team, the dinosaur-killing asteroid that hammered our planet 65 million years ago, wiping out almost 75 percent of life on Earth, could have been sent on its collision path by the periodic comet showers that turned up in Fleisig's computer model. "While we're not able to say that this pattern killed the dinosaurs, it's tantalizing", says Fleisig.