For almost three years now, people have been wondering why certain dwarf planets with extremely long, over 10,000-year orbits around our Sun, seem to be so eccentric in their orbits.
Objects that have been referred to as “Sednoids,” or detached TNOs, with extremely long and elliptical orbits around our Sun resembling the dwarf planet Sedna, continue to puzzle scientists.
A couple years ago, it was reported that a Planet Nine could be pulling on all these dwarf planets with extremely eccentric orbits, and it seemed as if the ultra-slow movement of some behemoth possibly the size of Neptune or larger was pulling on the Sednoids.
Now, some additional theories are coming forward on what might be causing the pull on Sednoid dwarf planets.
Astrophysicists from the UK and Lebanon are theorizing that perhaps it isn’t one large object, but the orbital wobbles may be caused by the combined gravitational power of various trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) or Kuiper Belt objects.
Antranik Sefilian of the University of Cambridge and Jihad Touma of the American University of Beirut are theorizing that it might be multiple objects out there tugging on the strange dwarf planets, and while they aren’t technically the first to think of this idea, their calculations are reportedly the first to try and explain the strange orbits while taking into account the gravitational effect of the other eight planets.
A 2016 study from the famous man who discovered several dwarf planets and Kuiper Belt objects, Mike Brown was the origin of the Planet Nine theory. Of all people who are qualified to speak on such a matter, he is probably the most credible, having personally discovered several of the dwarf planets.
At the time, it was reported by the CalTech dwarf planet expert that Planet Nine could take a massive 10,000 to 20,000 years if not longer to complete an orbit around the Sun, with a distance of potentially 149 billion kilometers from the Sun: 75 times more distant than Pluto.
“We saw a strange signal in the data that meant something odd was going on in the outer Solar System,”said Mike Brown.
“All of these distant objects were lined up in a weird way and that shouldn’t happen. We worked through the mundane explanations, but none of them worked out.”
The original info suggesting the existence of Planet Nine from Mike Brown is still possibly more compelling than the new theory of multiple objects out there, but there’s valuable hard data in the new study.
“The Planet Nine hypothesis is a fascinating one, but if the hypothesised ninth planet exists, it has so far avoided detection,” said Sefilian, author of the new study, pointing out that his team wanted to determine if there was a different explanation that may not be so fantastic.
“We thought, rather than allowing for a ninth planet, and then worry about its formation and unusual orbit, why not simply account for the gravity of small objects constituting a disk beyond the orbit of Neptune and see what it does for us?”
Ultimately, the new study was based around a computer model of the TNOs that happen to be detached from the gravitational influence of the gas giants, as well as models of the eight planets of our Solar System and their gravitational effect, and the massive disc of debris beyond the orbit of Neptune.
They applied variable small alterations to elements of the model, such as the eccentricity, mass, and orientation of the disc beyond Neptune, and they tried to recreate the looping, odd orbits of the unusual TNOs.
Sefilian continued to explain that if Planet Nine is removed from the model and instead several small objects scattered across a wide area are used in its place, they could “just as easily account for the eccentric orbits we see in some TNOs.”
It seems that this skeptical research doesn’t account for every aspect of the strange gravitational influence on the detached TNOs, as they still couldn’t explain why all their unusual orbits tilted toward the same direction, which Mike Brown originally believed could be evidence of one, single planet pulling them.
Whatever the truth about Planet Nine is, for some reason it seems inherently interesting to a lot of people.