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Search for the Ninth Planet

Context:

Astronomers have been scouring the outer solar system for signs of a hypothetical ninth planet for almost a decade, without success. However, experts say we may finally be on the cusp of finding it.

Relevance:

Facts for Prelims

About:

  • Planet Nine is a theorized planet located in the outer reaches of our solar system.
  • This concept was introduced to account for peculiarities in the orbits of distant trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs), particularly those with highly elliptical and clustered trajectories.
Characteristics:
  • Mass: Estimated to be between 5 and 10 times that of Earth.
  • Orbit: Believed to have a highly elliptical path with a semi-major axis ranging from 400 to 800 AU (astronomical units).
    • One AU equals the average distance from Earth to the Sun, approximately 93 million miles or 150 million kilometers.
  • Orbital Period: Could span between 10,000 and 20,000 years.
  • Distance: At its nearest, it may be around 200 AU from the Sun, and at its farthest, about 1,200 AU.

Current Status:

The search for this possible ninth planet in our solar system may soon reach a conclusion. With the Vera C. Rubin Observatory expected to open in 2025, we might finally discover Planet Nine in the coming years—or definitively dismiss the hypothesis.

-Source: The Hindu


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