But where is Planet X, a ninth planet in the Solar System? This planet is thought to be hidden at the edge of the Solar System behind the orbit of Pluto. While its existence is a matter of debate within the scientific community, NASA believes that its existence is not unlikely. It's all a question of nuance.
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Modelling our galaxy over 4 billion years
Astronomers have modelled no less than 4 billion years of the Solar System, and with it its 4 giant planets and its million icy objects populating the disc of the Kuiper belt. They compared models with and without Planet 9.
The results? The models with a ninth planet reveal that the distant objects, located at less than 40 to 50 times the distance between the Earth and our Sun, mainly congregate in orbits with a slight inclination to the plane of the Solar System. This is sufficient evidence for the presence of a planet.
The mysterious planet 9...
Since scientists have been unable to find and observe this famous Planet 9, these astronomers have tried to flush it out using these models. And the gathering of distant objects would, in their view, be immaterial proof of its existence.
For concrete proof, we will have to wait and see. The Legacy Survey Space and Time (LSST) at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory is a high-performance instrument that should be operational by 2023. It could enable the famous trans-Neptunian objects to be detected.
Planet 9 could be immense in size
Even if it cannot yet prove the existence of this planet, the American agency intends to use the most powerful telescopes at its disposal to discover it. NASA states:
It is too early to say with certainty that a so-called Planet X exists. What we see is an early prediction based on modelling from limited observations. It is the beginning of a process that could lead to an exciting result.
This article has been translated from Gentside FR.