Search for Planet Ix: A black hole lurking at the farendof of the solar system?

Scientists believe a planet larger than Earth may be lurking on the edge of the solar system, and the latest telescope will confirm their beliefs and change the scientific exploration of the solar system. You might think that if you find the first evidence that a planet larger than Earth lurks at the farendof of the solar system, which has not been discovered before, this will be a major historical moment, and you will be the leader in space exploration.

Search for Planet Ix: A black hole lurking at the farendof of the solar system?

Pictured is the artist’s portrayal of Planet X, which may be lurking at the far end of the solar system and is the mysteriously unknown ninth planet in the solar system.

But for Scott Shepherd, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution for Science in the United States, it was a much quieter affair, not a sudden discovery, and the evidence slowly accumulated.

Shepard is a low-key scientist who has gained evidence since he and Chad Trujillo of the University of Northern Arizona first expressed their skeptical views on the invisible planet in 2014. But when asked by a reporter if the mysterious Ninth planet was real, he said, “I think it’s more likely to exist than it is to exist.” “

As for the other astronomical teams, most of them think the discovery of the mysterious Ninth planet would be a major astronomical discovery, but they are pinning their hopes on a new generation of telescopes, such as the Rubin Grand Sky Watch Telescope, named after astronomer Willa Rubin, who discovered the first evidence of dark matter in the 1970s.

The Rubin Sky Telescope will begin full-time surveys in 2022, or will provide circumstantial evidence of the existence of Planet 9. The discovery of the planet would be a victory, but the theory of how the current solar system formed could signal a disaster.

“It will change all our perceptions of planetary formation, and in fact no one knows how such a large planet formed in a distant region of the sun,” Shepard said. “

The distant solar system is a region full of darkness and mystery, containing a vast space beyond Neptune’s orbit, and the distance between Neptune and the Sun is about 30 times the distance between the Earth and the sun, equivalent to 30 astronomical units, which extend slongating to about 100,000 astronomical units. This is almost a third of the distance from the sun to the nearest star.

In 1930, American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto, which, although only two-thirds the diameter of the moon, was classified as an array of solar planets, the beginning of astronomers’ exploration of the distant end of the solar system.

At the end of the 20th century, telescope technology became more powerful, and astronomers discovered that more smaller planets outside Neptune’s orbit were even smaller than Pluto. It wasn’t until 2005 that Mike Brown of the California Institute of Technology discovered the pluto, which was at least as big as Pluto’ size and possibly even larger. So if Pluto were a planet, and Ceres was a planet, NASA rushed to a press conference to announce the discovery of the tenth planet in the solar system.

About a year later, the International Astronomical Union declared that Pluto and Ceres should be defined as dwarf planets because they are actually too small to be classified as planetary arrays. So the solar system has eight planetary members: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and astronomers have since begun searching for potential mysterious planetary members in distant regions of the solar system.

Search for Planet Ix: A black hole lurking at the farendof of the solar system?

Pluto was discovered in 1930, and in 2006 it was downgraded to a dwarf planet, exiting the solar system’s planetary array.

One night in 2012, Shepard and Trujillo used the Cela Tololo American Observatory in Chile to find a moving object, named 2012 VP113, to their surprise, the distant object had a recent point of 80 astronomical units and a distant point of 440 astronomical units, which meant that it would orbit along a highly elliptical orbit, but that was not the most noteworthy thing.

By some strange coincidence, its orbit seems to be similar to that of another distant object called Sedna, a tiny object discovered by Yale University scientists in 2003 with a highly elliptical orbit: 76 astronomical units at the nearest point and 937 astronomical units at the far-range point, which immediately caught the attention of scientists.

“Objects like Sedna and 2012 VP113 cannot be formed in deviation orbit, but computer simulations show that the closer they are to the sun, the more they will be ejected by the gravitational pull of larger planets,” Shepard said. What is really strange, however, is that the two slender orbits point in roughly the same direction. “

As Shepard and Trujillo explore other celestial bodies, the more they can find their orbits neatly arranged, as if there were a giant object that gathers these small planets together, like a sheepdog driving away sheep, and the only explanation they think is that there is a larger planet at the far end of the solar system.

Driven by curiosity, they calculated that the mysterious planet was 2-15 times the size of Earth, with an average orbital distance of 250-1500 astronomical units, and their findings, published in the journal Nature in March 2014, began to swept the entire field of astronomy.

In 2015, Shepard and Trujillo made new discoveries, joining other scientists in discovering the 2015 TG387, the third most distant object except Sedna and 2012 VP113, and their ability to line up, further weakening the idea that celestial arrangement is a random coincidence.

In 2016, Brown and colleague Konstantin Batykin published their data analysis, acknowledging Shepard and Trujillo’s views on the size and distance of the mysterious Ninth planet, and even suggesting the possible discovery of the planet’s sky region.

But not everyone believes it. Pedro Bernaldnellin, a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania, realized that Shepard’s data was not the only way scientists could find the distant Ninth planet. So he turned to raw data from the Cosmology Survey, which aims to measure the expansion of the universe by looking at distant galaxies. He searched for celestial data, looking for distant objects in the solar system that had just blocked the lens, and used the method to discover seven mysterious planets.

At first glance, these small planets seem to be arranged as expected, but Bernaldnerin analyzed the data very carefully and found that the arrangement was less regular. “We don’t think we can find important signals in these data,” he said. Although he admits that he can’t quite arrange the existence of Planet Ix, he plans to do more complete data analysis, and perhaps the final answer will change.

During this time, Shepard, who used the Subaru telescope to observe on the Hawaiian island of Monakea, patiently searched the sky for more evidence about Planet IX, and even wanted to see the mysterious planet directly. However, the task is huge, like a needle in a haystack, and if Planet Ninth is real, it would be a very dim planet in the vast universe, but with rubin’s large sky-watching telescope, it could reveal significant clues.

It is reported that most telescopes take months or years to see the entire sky, and Rubin’s large sky-watching telescope can be completed in just three nights, and then repeated surveys over and over again to analyze what has changed so that it can capture moving objects.

The construction of the Rubin Large Sky Telescope is nearing completion and will be operational in the second half of this year, with trial and adjustment still several years away. “Our latest research is gradually changing our understanding of solar system science, and if Planet 9 is real, the Rubin Large Sky Rover telescope should be able to observe it,” Shepard said. “

Meg Schwanb, of Queen’s University Belfast, said: “We were able to detect Earth-like mass planets about 1,000 astronomical units from Earth, which meant that Shepard’s observational objects were easy to get into line of sight, and if no one else had observed Planet 9 before we started our investigation, I think everyone would have pinned their hopes on the Rubin Grand Sky Telescope.” “

Search for Planet Ix: A black hole lurking at the farendof of the solar system?

The image shows the orbits of distant objects observed in the solar system to date.

Even if the Rubin telescope can’t see it directly, it can detect more distant, small objects whose gravitational range and orbital position can precisely triangulat the location of planet Ninth, narrowing the search. If planet ninth in the solar system is real, the significance of this study will be significant.

Astronomers believe that the formation of the solar system is derived from the disk of matter around the sun, which condenses into smaller objects and then collides with each other to form larger objects, eventually producing planets of the solar system of varying sizes. But the disk structure, which is farther away from the sun, has become thinner, meaning there is not enough protogenion at the edge of the solar system to give birth to a large planet.

Some experts believe that Planet Ix was destined to be a gas-like giant like Jupiter and Saturn, so it was originally formed in the region near the sun, but gravitational forces prevented it from growing and eventually, by some factors, it deviated from its orbit and into the dark edge of the solar system.

But Jacob Schultz of The University of Durham in the UK is sceptical, saying: “It is possible, but in fact it takes a lot of coincidence factors, because a single gravitational action cannot be achieved, and instead the process requires a series of interactions to take it off its original orbit and never return to where it was formed.” “

Schultz came up with a more peculiar idea, and he and James Unvey of the University of Illinois at Chicago suggested that it might not be a long-lost planet, but a black hole!

If so, even the Rubin telescope would not be able to observe it, because the black hole would not glow at all, it would simply swallow light and any thing that happened to pass by, a bold guess, because Schultz’s hypothesis of a black hole is likely to be a long-suspected but unproven black hole: they formed shortly after the Big Bang.

But for now, most astronomers are more inclined to believe that Planet IX is a giant planet lurking at the edge of the solar system that will enter the human field of view in the next few years.

If the mysterious Ninth planet were to exist, it is likely that Shepard will appreciate the joy of making a major discovery when he first observed it through a telescope.