In the depths of the solar system may be hidden "twin" of the Earth: scientists explained where and how to look for it
There may still exist another planet in our solar system, which mankind has not yet discovered. But we are not talking about the so-called giant Planet 9 (which, however, may be much farther out in the system), but about a planet very similar to our Earth.
Such a theory was proposed by Patrick Sofya Lykavka from Kindai University in Japan and Takashi Ito from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, who have studied trans-Neptunian objects (TNO) and the strange behavior of clusters of cosmic objects. The scientists' study is published in The Astronomical Journal.
They hypothesize that such a planet could exist far beyond Neptune and have an inclined orbit.
"We hypothesize the existence of an Earth-like planet," the authors wrote.
They believe that it is the behavior of TNOs in peculiar orbits in the outer solar system that could serve as observational signs of perturbations caused by the putative planet.
The scientists noticed the influence of this planet in the Kuiper belt, a region about 30 astronomical units (a.u.) behind Neptune. This belt hosts a group of ice blocks and dwarf planets, including Pluto, Kwaoar, Orcus and Makemake.
Pluto is the largest of the objects in the belt and was once even considered a planet, although it is small in size: it is only 18% of the size of the Earth, that is, even smaller than the Earth's Moon, whose diameter is 25% of the Earth's.
At the same time, the planet whose existence is suspected by scientists, judging by the signs, should be 1.5-3 times larger than Earth.
According to the way TNOs accumulate, scientists believe the planet may have an orbit tilted by 30 degrees and be between 200 and 500 a.u. from the Sun. To get a sense of how far away that is - the farthest Pluto is less than 40 a.u. from the Sun.
Scientists recognize that in order to prove the existence of this planet will have to do a lot more. At the same time, they think that finding it will not be so difficult.
First of all, they propose to study in more detail the behavior of TNOs, and how they are made to behave by a probable planet. This, at least, will allow to finally find out whether the planet exists or the behavior of TNOs is caused by some other factors.
For now, the scientists say, observations of the Kuiper belt support the likely scenario of an undiscovered planet in deep space.
"Detailed knowledge of the orbital structure in the distant Kuiper belt may reveal or rule out the existence of any hypothetical planet in the outer solar system," the researchers summarized.
Earlier OBOZREVATEL told about the fact that in the solar system may be hiding a "rogue planet".