Using computer models astronomers have found that the tiny objects in the Kuiper Belt could be sufficient, instead of one giant undiscovered planet, to provide the gravity necessary to explain the orbits of the solar system’s outer planets.
They call theorized giant planet “Planet Nine,” which seems silly since Pluto really still fills that role. Nonetheless, this work also might explain the process that flung some surprisingly large objects so far out into the Kuiper Belt.
They ran supercomputer simulations of how bodies might interact in the outer Solar System far beyond Pluto, in the icy region known as the Kuiper belt. They found that a flock of Moon-sized worlds could do many of the same things as Planet Nine.
Over millions of years, the collective gravity of these smaller worlds would nudge the orbits of distant objects. The worlds would jostle one another like bumper cars and, occasionally, cause an object to move into a very distant orbit. Their simulations suggest that more-massive objects would be flung into the most distant orbits — as some observations have suggested.
We must also remind ourselves that this conclusion is based on a computer model, and is filled with uncertainty. We also do not yet have a full census of objects in the Kuiper Belt, which means this model required many assumptions.
From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.
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