A planet stolen billions of years ago may be lurking on the outskirts of the solar system

Dmytro IvancheskulNews
Young Sun could steal a planet from a neighboring star. Source: Illustrative photo

There may be a Mars-sized planet on the outskirts of our solar system that was stolen from another system. The scientist found evidence of the existence of such a planet in a model of planetary evolution.

This is stated in a study published on the arXiv preprint site. The work of Princeton University astrophysicist Amir Siraj will be published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The author notes that although the existence of such a planet has yet to be verified, if it does exist, it will give humanity a unique opportunity to visit an exoplanet without having to travel vast distances between stars.

"To find such a planet, you need everything to go incredibly well, because it will be very faint (meaning its visibility - Ed.), but the implications will be enormous," Siraj said.

Siraj's prediction of the planet's existence is based on new research on clusters of young stars, where most planets form.

As the scientist explains, stars are usually not born alone and are bound by gravity to their neighbors. This connection allows them to interact not only with each other but also with nascent planets. In certain cases, situations may arise when the gravitational pull of a neighboring star steals one of the planets from the parent star, trapping it on the outskirts of the system.

Studies of this possibility have shown that small rocky worlds such as Mercury or Mars are ideal candidates for "abduction." A planet like our Earth, not to mention gas giants, would have a much lower chance of being torn from the parent system.

By comparing the data, Siraj was able to find out how many small planets the Sun could have captured when it was still in its stellar infancy billions of years ago.

The results showed that the outer solar system probably contains one to three planets with a total mass of Mars, or two to five planets with a mass of Mercury.

Siraj suggests that these planets, if they do exist, are hidden at a distance of hundreds or thousands of astronomical units (AU). One AU is the distance from the Earth to the Sun. So it is currently quite problematic to find them, given how dark the part of the system so far from the Sun should be. But, according to the astrophysicist, the Vera Rubin Observatory, which is due to start operating at full capacity in 2025, will be able to detect any of these worlds in the range of 400 to 700 AU.

The idea that there may be another planet in the Solar System (the so-called Ninth Planet, Planet X, or Nibiru) has been discussed for quite some time. Its possible existence is allegedly even indicated by the behavior of trans-Neptunian objects.

Earlier, OBOZ.UA reported that the discovery of a mysterious planet on the outskirts of the solar system was suggested thanks to the study of Uranus.

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