Something is on the edge of the Solar System: they discover hundreds of new objects affected by an unknown gravitational force
Using Chile’s Dark Energy Survey, researchers from the University of Washington have detected a total of 815 objects beyond Neptune over six years. Of those 815 objects, 461 are new and never seen before. The curiosity here is how they are grouped together, a series of groupings that occur when a large object or mass such as a planet exerts gravitational force on them. The problem? We do not find what the gravitational force exerts.
El Dark Energy Survey (DES) Its main objective is to understand the dark energy that drives the accelerated expansion of the Universe. It is generally used to observe at large scales in the depths of the Universe, but the researcher Pedro Bernardinelli and his team decided to look closer, at the edge of our Solar System.
Observations over the years have allowed them to find a total of 815 trans-Neptunian objects (objects in the Solar System beyond Neptune). 461 of these objects had never been reported before. This however is not particularly relevant, after all the Universe is full of asteroids and other objects. The funny thing is rather how they behave.
A possible planet that plays hide and seek
What researchers have observed is that objects often cluster in their orbits. This effect usually occurs when a greater mass alters the trajectory of these objects causing them to group together and after that they travel together. Nevertheless, we don’t know of anything big enough beyond Neptune in our Solar System that can cause that.
This is where the famous Planet Nine hypothesis comes into play. The Planet Nine is a supposed planet that we have not discovered yet beyond Neptune but that I have seen its possible effects. One of them this grouping of trans-Neptunian objects. It is believed to be about 400 times farther from the Sun than Earth and with a mass between five and ten times that of Earth.
For to complete its orbit this Planet Nine would take about 20,000 years. To put this in context, Neptune takes 165 years while the dwarf planet Pluto takes 248 years. I mean, this ninth planet would really be far from us. And this is typical of trans-Neptunian objects, having very eccentric and large orbits compared to the eight planets. The problem is that if this planet exists, it is hiding very well from us.
However, Planet Nine remains and will remain a speculation until it is actually found. Other options that the researchers are considering are, for example, a black hole, it would also have enough mass to cause this gravitational attraction. In any case, the new discoveries will allow us to continue studying and understanding the edge of our Solar System in order to better understand what it is like and how it was formed.
Vía | Phys
More information | arXiv