The enigmatic Planet Nine, an unknown giant mass lurking on the edge of our solar system, has been fascinating scientists and conspirators for years, but we may finally have a method to find it once and for all.
Planet Nine is the name given to a titanic object that interrupts the orbits of objects in the Kuiper Belt above Neptune. It is believed to be somewhere in the region five times the mass of the Earth. We do not know exactly what it is. We do not know exactly where he is, and we do not even know where to start looking for him. But now a team of researchers believes we may already have all the data we need.
According to study authors Matthew J Holman, Matthew Jane Payne and Andras Pa, NASA's Exoplanet Transit (NASA) satellite may already have detected the elusive beaver, we just haven't had time to look for photos of it in huge data bodies already .
TESS hunts exoplanets using the transit method, which means that it lies in waiting to see patches in the sky, waiting for anything, whatever, to pass in front of the distant star. However, one exposure could not capture something as distant and faint as Planet Nine, where another technique known as digital tracking would enter.
Digital tracking involves stacking images from the same field of view one on another, increasing the brightness of distant objects. The technique has so far been used as an excellent finder for new asteroids, but has yet to be used to hunt for Planet Nine or whatever, the mysterious, massive object out there in Neptune.
However, since Planet Nine is the driving force behind the target, some calculations (or assumptions according to layman's terms) are needed to understand its trajectory as it moves through the space gap. This would then, in theory, allow scientists to fine-tune the images and increase the brightness of the object.
"Discover new objects with unknown trajectories", the researchers wrote in their paper, "We can try all possible orbits!"
Digital tracking has been used in conjunction with the Hubble Space Telescope to detect several objects outside Neptune, so the technique is proven, however, the task is somewhat gargantuan.
While it is theoretically possible, practically speaking, anyone hoping to find Nine Planets in the TESS data will have to test every possible orbit in Herculean's task, on which even the most powerful supercomputers in the world will they need some time to come to fruition, for now at least.
Like this story? Share it with a friend!