Scientists Maintain Search for Planet X

Friday, 28 Mar 2014 03:01 PM

By Melissa Clyne

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While there's still no sign of Planet X, the hypothetical ninth solar system beyond Neptune, astronomers have uncovered new evidence indicating it may exist, according to Space.com.

This week, scientists announced the discovery of cool body, known as a dwarf planet, orbiting the sun in the largely unexplored inner Oort Cloud, "suggesting that this distant realm contains millions of undiscovered objects — including, perhaps, a world larger than Earth," according to Space.com.

Celestial body 2012 VP113 joins another dwarf planet, named Sedna, that may have a connection to "a big planet lurking unseen in these frigid depths," according to Space.com.

The orbits of 2012 VP113, and some of its neighbors, "are consistent with the existence of a planet-size 'perturber' far from the sun — perhaps so distant that it cannot be detected with current instruments."

"These two objects are just the tip of the iceberg," study co-author Chadwick Trujillo, of the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii, told the website.

According to a NASA news release earlier this month, a year-long study that scanned the entire sky on two separate occasions did not find the mysterious Planet X, but did confirm more than 3,500 new stars and brown dwarfs within 500-light years of the sun.

The scans – conducted by a Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorerspacecraft – captured images of nearly 750 million asteroids, stars and galaxies, according to NASA.

While there has been no definitive existence of Planet X, astronomers will continue to search for it, said Kevin Luhman, a Penn State astrophysicist who recently published the results of his search for Planet X in the Astrophysical Journal.

"I think astronomers will continue to search for a distant companion to the sun with every new, deeper survey," he told Space.com.

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