The Search For Planet X
How might we see evidence for this planet being in our solar system? In the early 1990’s, Dr. Robert Harrington—the lead astronomer for the Naval Observatory in Washington—suggested including another large planet in our solar system model. He could then explain many of the anomalies we currently see, such as why Uranus is tilted on its side. Or how Pluto and Neptune are possibly dislodged moons of Saturn. Dr. Harrington plotted an orbit of a planet with a very elliptical orbit coming out of the southern hemisphere towards the inner part of the solar system. His model very closely matched the description by the Sumerians of Nibiru being 4-8 times the size of Earth and depicted as having a very elongated orbit. Dr. Harrington also noted that based upon orbital perturbations in the outer planets, there should be another large planet out there. This simply means that all the planets are being pulled in one direction by some force that would suggest there should be some large body as the cause.
In more recent times, the search for a planet x can now be placed under a larger astronomical interest in looking for extra-solar planets. (Planets that are not a part of our solar system). In this process we have also created many new classifications about stars and planets we are imaging deep in space.
Another fascinating and recent astronomical discovery is that almost all the external solar systems we have imaged with Hubble appear to be binary, having 2 suns. So it stands to reason our solar system is probably binary as well, having 2 suns. But our second sun is a brown dwarf, a failed sun. This second sun might also have planets and debris that orbit around it.
One theory proposed was by Dr. Richard Muller at Berkley University. He suggested a large planet called Nemesis may orbit our second sun. There is a large asteroid belt also near our second sun, which this planet passes through. Dr. Muller suggested this Nemesis planet would periodically over millions of years dislodge comets and debris from the outer asteroid belt called the Ourt cloud. This debris would be hurled to the inner part of our solar system, and this is what Dr. Muller suggested caused the extinction of the dinosaurs.
Nemesis is a hypothetical, hard-to-see red dwarf star or brown dwarf, orbiting the Sun at a distance of about 50,000 to 100,000 AU (about 1-2 light years), somewhat beyond the Ourt cloud. This star was originally postulated to exist as part of a hypothesis to explain a perceived cycle of mass extinctions in the geological record, which seem to occur once every 26 million years or so. In addition, observations by astronomers of the sharp edges of Port clouds around other binary (double) star systems in contrast to the diffuse edges of the Port clouds around single-star systems has prompted some scientists to also postulate that a dwarf star may be co-orbiting our sun. Counter-theories also exist that other forces (like the angular effect of the galactic gravity plane) may be the cause of the sharp-edged Port cloud pattern around our own sun. To date the issue remains unsettled in the scientific community.
In 1984, paleontologists David Raup and Jack Sepkoski published a paper claiming that they had identified a statistical periodicity in extinction rates over the last 250 million years using various forms of time series analysis. They focused on the extinction intensity of fossil families of marine vertebrates, invertebrates, and protozoans, identifying 12 extinction events over the time period in question. The average time interval between extinction events was determined as 26 million years. At the time, two of the identified extinction events (Cretaceous-Tertiary and Late Eocene) could be shown to coincide with large impact events. Although Raup and Sepkoski could not identify the cause of their supposed periodicity, they suggested that there might be a non-terrestrial connection. The challenge to propose a mechanism was quickly addressed by several teams of astronomers.
Extenction Level Events
Two teams of astronomers, Whitmire and Jackson, and Davis, Hut, and Muller, independently published similar hypotheses to explain Raup and Sepkoski’s extinction periodicity in the same issue of the journal Nature. This hypothesis proposes that the sun may have an as yet undetected companion star in a highly elliptical orbit that periodically disturbs comets in the Ourt cloud, causing a large increase in the number of comets visiting the inner solar system with a consequential increase in impact events on Earth. This became known as the Nemesis (or, more colorfully, Death Star) hypothesis.
If it does exist, the exact nature of Nemesis is uncertain. Richard A. Muller suggests that the most likely object is a red dwarf with magnitude between 7 and 12, while Daniel P. Whitmire and Albert A. Jackson argue for a brown dwarf. If a red dwarf, it would undoubtedly already exist in star catalogs, but its true nature would only be detectable by measuring its parallax; due to orbiting the Sun it would have a very low proper motion and would escape detection by proper motion surveys that have found stars like the 9th magnitude Barnard’s star.
The last major extinction event was about 5 million years ago, so Muller posits that Nemesis is likely 1 to 1.5 light years away at present, and even has ideas of what area of the sky it might be in (supported by Yarris, 1987), near Hydra, based on a hypothetical orbit derived from original apogees of a number of atypical long-period comets that describe an orbital arc meeting the specifications of Muller’s hypothesis.
The Orpheus Theory
Another recent theory called “Orpheus” suggests a large body entered our solar system in the past and collided with our Earth. From that collision the debris formed into our current moon.
In 1898, George Howard Darwin made an early suggestion that the Earth and Moon had once been one body. Darwin’s hypothesis was that a molten Moon had been spun from the Earth because of centrifugal forces, and this became the dominant academic explanation. Using Newtonian mechanics, he calculated that the Moon had actually orbited much closer in the past and was drifting away from the Earth. This drifting was later confirmed by American and Soviet experiments using laser ranging targets placed on the Moon.
However, Darwin’s calculations could not resolve the mechanics required to trace the Moon backwards to the surface of the Earth. In 1946, Reginald Aldworth Daly of Harvard University challenged Darwin’s explanation, adjusting it to postulate that the creation of the Moon was caused by an impact rather than centrifugal forces. Little attention was paid to Professor Daly’s challenge until a conference on satellites in 1974 where it was reintroduced. It was then republished in Icarus in 1975 by Drs. William K. Hartmann and Donald R. Davis. Their models suggested that, at the end of the planet formation period, several satellite-sized bodies had formed that could collide with the planets or be captured. They proposed that one of these objects may have collided with the Earth, ejecting refractory, volatile-poor dust that could coalesce to form the Moon. This collision could help explain the unique geological properties of the Moon.
A similar approach was taken by Alfred G. W. Cameron and William Ward, who suggested that the Moon was formed by the tangential impact of a body the size of Mars. The outer silicates of the colliding body would mostly be vaporized, whereas a metallic core would not. Hence, most of the collisional material sent into orbit would consist of silicates, leaving the coalescing Moon deficient in iron. The more volatile materials that were emitted during the collision would likely escape the Solar System, whereas silicates would tend to coalesce.
Something Is Out There
In the last decade, we have seen a huge increase of interest from the astronomical community to the idea that a planet x does exist. There have been a flurry of press continuing reporting on new findings from independent teams claiming they may have found planet x.
Several smaller bodies have recently been found beyond Pluto. Most of them range from 800-1000km in radius. Nothing even close to the Sumerian descriptions of a planet 4-8 times the size of Earth has yet to be located and imaged using our telescopes.
How do astronomers go about looking for a planet x? And who are these people?
The most recent finding at the time of writing this comes from a Japanese team lead by Dr. Tadashi Mukai. I contacted Dr. Mukai to ask about the size of Planet x he was projecting. He was kind enough to share this information below.
Dear Jason Martell-san,
Thank you for sending me information.
(Answer from Mukai) Its diameter is expected as 10,000-16,000km (roughly the same
as the size of Earth). Other details for Planet x is shown in the web site at http://www.org.kobe-u.ac.jp/cps/press080228_j.html
Unfortunately, most of the news in Japanese, but you can get more from PDF file in item 1).
Best regards. Tadashi Mukai
One of the latest space telescopes deployed is called SIRTF – space infrared telescope facility, recently rename to Spitizer. This telescope is special in that it is kept below freezing temperatures and is able to tune its infrared capability in such a way as to match the temperature of these so called “dust clouds” deep in space allowing for a never seen before clarity deep into space.
John Carr of the Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, and Joan Najita of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, Tucson, Arizona, developed a new technique using Spitzer’s infrared spectrograph to measure and analyze the chemical composition of the gases within protoplanetary disks. These are flattened disks of gas and dust that encircle young stars. Scientists believe they provide the building materials for planets and moons and eventually, over millions of years, evolve into orbiting planetary systems like our own.