Gravitational "bumper cars" could put Planet Nine hypothesis on ice

Ann-Marie Madigan, an assistant professor in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder), says that the Kupier Belt is a lot more dynamic than we imagine.

Though no evidence suggests a ghostly planet exists in our stellar system, theories of the hypothetical planet, which is said to be 10 times the size of Earth, have been doing rounds for nearly two years. "We can solve a lot of these problems by just taking into account that question".

In 2016, astronomers Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown announced that a distant undiscovered planet could have created the unusual signatures of some TNO orbits in the Kuiper Belt and sent Sedna and other detached objects out to even more distant realms. The dwarf planets and other icy bodies out there move in mysterious ways that suggest an unseen world is pulling on them, but new calculations suggest that there is no Planet Nine - these distant objects might just be jostling each other like bumper cars.

Study suggests Planet Nine might not be responsible for detached objects in the solar system.

The work explaining the collective gravity theory was presented at a press briefing at the 232nd meeting of the American Astronomical Society, which runs from June 3-7 in Denver.

To date, researchers have discovered more than 2,300 bodies beyond Neptune's orbit - but astronomers were previously unable to explain why dwarf planets like 90377 Sedna are so far removed from the sun. I'm talking about the maybe-kinda-sorta hidden planet that might-kinda-maybe be lurking at the very distant edge of our solar system.

The skeptics include Madigan and Fleisig, who, along with study co-author Alexander Zderic, a UC Boulder graduate student, think they've found an alternate solution to the weird orbital signatures. Sedna circles the sun at a distance of almost 8 billion miles and doesn't even come near solar system's giant planets. "This cycle could wind up shooting comets toward the inner solar system-including in the direction of Earth-on a predictable timescale".

According to the researchers' simulations, the TNOs move like hands on a clock, with the most massive objects moving slowly, like the hour hand, and the smaller ones ticking along quickly, like the minute hand.

Planet Nine has not been confirmed, however, and all attempts to find it have been fruitless.

"You see a pileup of the orbits of smaller objects to one side of the sun", Jacob Fleisig, an undergraduate astrophysics major at University of Colorado at Boulder and lead author, said. "These orbits crash into the bigger body, and what happens is those interactions will change its orbit from an oval shape to a more circular shape".

These findings are supported by a 2012 study, which revealed that bigger "detached objects" tend to wander farther away from the sun, notes CU Boulder. "While we're not able to say that this pattern killed the dinosaurs", Fleisig added, "it's tantalizing".

Well, as it turns out, the new theory that axes Planet Nine might also be tied to the dinosaur extinction.