By Seth Shostak
The Huffington Post
It could be the first new planet discovered in the last 170 years — or at least the last 85, if you’re one of those stubborn folk who still insist on calling Pluto a planet.
Two Caltech astronomers, Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin, have noticed some weird behavior in the outer solar system they think is caused by an unseen world orbiting roughly 500 times farther from the Sun than Earth does.
The evidence consists of a strange alignment of some so-called Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) — ice-bound orbs that are cousins of Pluto. These oversized hailstones are strewn throughout the dim and distant nether regions of our solar system. Their discovery almost a decade ago led to Pluto’s loss of membership in the pantheon of planets. […]
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By Joel Achenbach and Rachel Feltman
The Washington Post
Astronomers at the California Institute of Technology announced Wednesday that they have found new evidence of a giant icy planet lurking in the darkness of our solar system far beyond the orbit of Pluto. They are calling it “Planet Nine.”
Their paper, published in the Astronomical Journal, describes the planet as about five to 10 times as massive as the Earth. But the authors, astronomers Michael Brown and Konstantin Batygin, have not observed the planet directly.
Instead, they have inferred its existence from the motion of recently discovered dwarf planets and other small objects in the outer solar system. Those smaller bodies have orbits that appear to be influenced by the gravity of a hidden planet – a “massive perturber.” […]
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