The Elusive Planet Nine: Fact or Fiction?

Erick Narvaez ‘23

For years, the question of whether there is a ninth planet far beyond the outer reaches of Neptune has been the topic of discussion for many scientists and astronomers. This elusive ninth planet, also referred to as ‘Planet X’ or ‘Nibiru’ is thought to be a Neptune-like, icy and frozen planet orbiting the sun at the edge of the solar system. 

The idea of this planet in our solar system was first proposed almost 2 centuries ago, back in 1848, just two years after the discovery of Neptune. Since then, this topic has been widely discussed amongst many, ranging from scientists to conspiracy theorists claiming that the planet could bring the world to an end. Theoretically, however, if a ninth planet were to exist in our solar system, it would have to be far out in the region known as The Kuiper Belt, essentially another Asteroid Belt, except about 200 times more massive. 

In 1983, astronomer Rowan Robinson conducted a research to find this mysterious planet. At the time, he had been looking for a tenth planet in our solar system, as Pluto hadn’t yet been declared a Dwarf Planet. However, his research fell flat, as he had found nothing, and concluded that another planet in our solar system did not exist. Later on, however, Rowan re-examined the data he had gathered in his research using new advances in our knowledge of planetary systems. Through his new research, Rowan discovered three infrared sources beyond Uranus that he claimed could be “the theorized or hypothetical world.” 

Recently, in 2015, Astronomers Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown from California Institute of Technology, otherwise known as Caltech, provided research that could prove that this elusive planet indeed, does exist. Using detailed mathematical modelling and computer simulations, these astronomers were able to deduce that the orbits and paths of objects in the Kuiper Belt did not make sense in terms of Neptune.

The elongated orbit of this large object could explain the unique orbits of at least five other smaller objects in the Kuiper Belt. The only flaw that people claim to this research is that it was all done through a computer rather than actual observations through a telescope. However, objects in the Kuiper belt do not reflect as much sunlight as the other objects in our solar system, which could explain why Rowan, and astronomers to this day, have not been able to properly identify a ninth planet.

There are many theories as to what this planet could actually be. Some believe it to be a complete hoax, others have suggested that it is a ring of debris, or even a bowling-ball sized black hole. One thing we know for sure is, there is a lot more in our solar system that we don’t know, and with time we will come to unearth these theories.