Warp in Kuiper Belt suggests existence of Mars-sized object


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The uncertainty of science: Astronomers think they have identified a warp in the Kuiper Belt that suggests a Mars-sized object exists there, affecting the orbits of surrounding objects.

According to the calculations, an object with the mass of Mars orbiting roughly 60 AU from the sun on an orbit tilted by about eight degrees (to the average plane of the known planets) has sufficient gravitational influence to warp the orbital plane of the distant KBOs [Kuiper Belt Objests] within about 10 AU to either side. “The observed distant KBOs are concentrated in a ring about 30 AU wide and would feel the gravity of such a planetary mass object over time,” Volk said, “so hypothesizing one planetary mass to cause the observed warp is not unreasonable across that distance.”

This proposed planet is not the theorized Planet Nine that other astronomers have proposed. That planet, which hasn’t been found and other data says doesn’t exist, would be much larger and much farther out.

I would add that neither of these proposed planets might exist. At this moment our data of the Kuiper Belt is very incomplete. I would not bet much on any theory that extrapolates planets from what we presently know.

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6 comments

  • Judy

    First sentence: shouldn’t that be “affecting”?

  • Judy: You are correct. Fixed. Thank you.

  • Steve Earle

    That “Planet Nine” tag is really annoying whenever I see it in the press. We already have a Planet Nine, it’s called Pluto…..

  • Edward

    Steve wrote: “We already have a Planet Nine, it’s called Pluto…..
    Correct. I have two nephews who learned of Pluto’s existence after the IAU demoted it, and they both know it is a planet, so the IAU is fighting a losing battle.

  • Steve Earle

    After the New Horizons mission and those amazing pictures I was confident that it would be re-instated but that movement appears to have fizzled out….. :-(

  • ken anthony

    We may never have starships nor ever need them. People will migrate to the inner solar system. Then the outer. Then Kuiper. Then Oort which is mixed with adjacent star clouds.

    The Fermi paradox assumes this as well. Starships? We don’t need no stinkin’ starships.

    We will best find out what’s out there just by going. It doesn’t have to take too long.

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