A new planet in our Solar system?


I was stunned recently by this report that there may be a massive new planet that we did not know about in our very own Solar system. I thought this must be a hoax report but apparently it is being considered as a serious possibility.

The hunt is on for a gas giant up to four times the mass of Jupiter thought to be lurking in the outer Oort Cloud, the most remote region of the solar system. The orbit of Tyche (pronounced ty-kee), would be 15,000 times farther from the Sun than the Earth’s, and 375 times farther than Pluto’s, which is why it hasn’t been seen so far.

But scientists now believe the proof of its existence has already been gathered by a Nasa space telescope, Wise, and is just waiting to be analysed.

You would have thought that our knowledge of our own stellar neighborhood was complete but apparently not. The suggestion that Tyche existed was first made as far back as 1999 but not everyone is persuaded that it exists.

We should know with greater certainty either way by 2012. This is what makes science so much fun. There are always new discoveries to look forward to.

Comments

  1. says

    I just wonder why I haven’t heard about it earlier. I just did a quick search and google returned tons of results and I had literally no idea…Sometimes it’s just amazing how little we know

  2. says

    It just goes to show you that “You Don’t Know What Your Don’t Know” but if you keep an open mind and try not to put a fence around your beliefs based on what everyone else believes, you can make some truly astonishing discoveries.
    That is the nature of science.

  3. says

    Shalom Mano,

    I seem to recall that the search for Pluto was spurred by minor perturbations in the orbit of Uranus and that sometime back in the ’70s scientists were beginning to speculate that a (then 10th, now 9th) planet somewhere out in the Oort cloud was a much more likely suspect.

    This massive gas giant could be the culprit. I’m also intrigued by the size of Tyche. Some astronomers have suggested that Jupiter was just under the limit for making our home a dual-star system (this was part of story line in Arthur C. Clarke’s Space Odyssey trilogy). If Tyche is as big as suggested, that provides even more fuel for the speculation.

  4. says

    We can’t know enough about our planet and it’s going to be true day by day.

    This is something new to new and I am amazed to read about it.

  5. says

    There has long been theories on a planet beyond Neptune. As Jeff mentioned above, Percival Lowell began searching for a planet after he noticed strange movements in orbital patterns of Uranus and Neptune.
    After Pluto was discovered it was assumed he was correct, but later it was found that Pluto’s gravity was too small to affect the orbits.
    There are a few objects orbiting out there near Pluto, but the search continues for something large enough to create the irregularities seen in Neptune and Uranus…Perhaps it is Tyche.

  6. says

    I remember when I was younger talk of a planet beyond Pluto, but I believe it was supposed to be a smaller body than even Pluto.

    It’s a bit disconcerting to have to talk to my kids about the solar system and not say Pluto is a planet. But as much as the idea of Pluto being downgraded, I have to admit the idea of a gas giant out there that no one has seen is intriguing.

    I found the choice of the name Tyche interesting. I’m not sure of the accuracy of the statement but here is the Wikipedia entry for the naming of the hypothetical planet:

    “Tyche (????, meaning “fortune” or “luck” in Greek) was the Greek goddess of fortune and prosperity. The name was chosen to avoid confusion with an earlier similar hypothesis that the Sun has a dim companion named Nemesis, whose gravity triggers influxes of comets into the inner Solar System, leading to mass-extinctions on Earth. Tyche was the name of the “good sister” of Nemesis.”

  7. says

    I haven’t heard anything about this in either US news or news here in Japan. I was just watching a show the other day about the Pluto loosing it’s status though.

  8. says

    It’s quite humbling, that even in this day and age, that humans are still making new discoveries in space like this all the time. Thanks for the interesting read.

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