Hunt for Planet Nine leads to mini-worlds

Image: Planet X
An artist’s conception shows Planet X, a.k.a. Planet Nine. (Credit: Robin Dienel / Carnegie Inst.)

The hypothetical world known as Planet X or Planet Nine hasn’t yet been found, but thanks to the search, astronomers have discovered smaller worlds on the solar system’s edge.

Mapping such objects could lead to the big discovery: a planet that’s thought to be at least several times bigger than Earth, lurking at least 200 times farther away from the sun. Or it could lead to a different explanation for the puzzling, highly elongated orbits of some of the objects that lie far beyond Pluto.

Planet Nine’s existence was proposed last year as the most elegant way to account for the orbits of worlds such as Sedna and 2012 VP113 (which has been nicknamed “Biden” in honor of the veep). Ever since then, astronomers have been surveying the skies in hopes of tracking it down.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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