Possible Ninth Planet Rocks the Web

15 Feb

by Claudine Zap

Forget the "Sputnik moment." If two astrophysicists are correct, we may be having a "Tyche moment" -- a ninth planet to add to our solar system. But that's a big "if."

The two scientists who make the claim, Daniel Whitmire and John Matese from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, say a planet they named Tyche -- that is four times the size of Jupiter -- may be lurking in the outer solar system.

The pair says that the NASA Wise telescope may already have data to prove its existence, but that the planet, if it exists, won't reveal itself for another two years.

That hasn't stopped astronomically high searches on Yahoo! for "tyche planet," which have soared 3,000% in the last day alone.

The researchers have been collecting data for the last 10 years, and though they admit the unusual orbital patterns in a far-out region of the solar system called the Oort Cloud could be explained by a ginormous planet, it also could be a statistical fluke.

Many scientists have their doubts about a possible planet: After all, seeing is believing when it comes to astronomy.

"There could very well be something causing the orbital anomalies in the Oort Cloud that are claimed, " says Bing Quock, the Assistant Director of the Morrison Planetarium at the California Academy of Sciences. He added, "But astronomers won't actually believe it until they see it, and that's going to take repeated observations."

Time Magazine
California Academy of Sciences

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