August 3, 2021

The mysterious planet X that divides the astronomers – The Province

The mysterious planet X that divides the astronomers - The Province


The scientific community is divided with respect to the interpretation of the movements of objects that, like Sedna (illustrated in the image), move through the confines of the solar system. Is your orbit affected by the presence of an unknown planet? / NASA / JPL-Caltech

The new discovery of 2015 TG387 is the result of a long-term survey of the external solar system that its authors have been carrying out for some years now. telescopes in Hawaii and Chile, and whose ultimate goal would be the discovery of a new planet in the solar system.

In these moments, the scientific community is divided with respect to the interpretation of new objects like this, observed along very long orbits that take them from the neighborhood of Neptune and the Kuiper belt (from 30 to 80 AU) to the region occupied by the Oort cloud (located thousands of AU and different from the classic Oort cloud, proposed by Oort in 1950).

The scientific community is divided by the interpretation of objects with very long orbits, which could be explained or not with the presence of Planet X

One group considers the properties of these objects they are not compatible with the existence of a hypothetical planet X. On the one hand, they postulate that the distribution of their orbits presents peculiarities solely and exclusively due to observational biases and selection effects. For other, they argue that the existence of the most anomalous objects can be explained by processes of orbital diffusion in which the orbit of an object changes gradually until reaching the extreme values ​​of observed orbital sizes and shapes.

In the opposite corner are the groups that consider that the orbits of these peculiar objects can only be explained as a result of the disturbances exerted by a hypothetical planet yet to be discovered. The authors of the discovery of 2015 TG387 or El Duende defend this interpretation and with their new article they reaffirm their hypothesis.

The announcement of 2015 TG387 joins the also recent 2015 BP519 or Cajú (the Cashew), an object that has one of the strangest orbits ever observed and that does not seem to have the same dynamic past as the rest. With this, there are already 30 known extreme transneptunian objects (ETNO, for its acronym in English).

More than one troublemaker

In a study in which I participated recently, we pointed out that the 2015 BP519 properties are too extreme within the context of these objects to be able to compare them with those of the rest. In any case, when the data of these objects are analyzed together, including 2015 BP519 and 2015 TG387, it seems that effectively are subject to disturbances, although these seem compatible with the presence of more than one disturber.

The truth is that we still have few observations of these objects and missing more information

The region of the solar system between the Kuiper Belt or the Transneptunian Belt, at 40 AU, and the Oort Cloud, at 50,000 AU, was believed to be empty until, starting in 2000, the discoveries of these objects began to be made public. interesting Now we know that this region is far from empty and we suspect that it will still give us many surprises in the coming years.

The reality is that we still have few observations of these objects, so we know little of them apart from the properties of their orbits. In terms of chemical composition, only results from Sedna and pair (474640) 2004 VN112 and 2013 RF98 have been published, although at the recent meeting of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in Vienna, preliminary results of two other objects have been made public: 2002 GB32 and (506479) 2003 HB57.

These two pairs of objects they seem to be very different from Sedna. Those of the quartet are pink, while Sedna is very reddish. We trust in the new data and surprises that future observations may bring.

Carlos de la Fuente Marcos is an astronomer at the Complutense University of Madrid, an expert in extreme trans-Neptunian objects. Some of his works, made with his brother Raúl de la Fuente Marcos, suggest the presence of one or more unknown planets in the solar system.

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