A groundbreaking discovery could rewrite the maps of our solar system as researchers from Japan’s Kindai University and National Astronomical Observatory unveil their prediction of an unknown ‘Earth-like’ planet lurking just beyond Neptune. Patryk Sofia Lykawka and Takashi Ito, the scientists behind the revelation, have been delving into the mysteries of the Kuiper Belt—a sprawling ring of interstellar objects—to uncover what could be an astronomical game-changer. Their findings, published recently in the Astronomical Journal, suggest that this predicted planet could be a primordial planetary body that has survived in the distant Kuiper Belt—home to dwarf planets, asteroids, carbon masses, and icy volatile elements.
This potential planet, according to the researchers, exerts a significant gravitational influence over other objects in its vicinity, hinting at its substantial presence. “We determined that an Earth-like planet located on a distant and inclined orbit can explain three fundamental properties of the distant Kuiper Belt,” the researchers wrote in their report. The celestial bodies they refer to as trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs)—comprising a significant population beyond Neptune’s gravitational influence—are believed to be remnants from the formation of the solar system. The existence of these TNOs, the researchers argue, could be indicative of an undiscovered planet in the outer solar system—a theory that builds on the hypothetical ‘Planet Nine’ proposed by Caltech astronomers in 2016. However, Lykawka and Ito suggest their theorized planet is even closer than ‘Planet Nine.’
Discovery of an "Earth-like" Planet Behind Neptune
A team of Japanese researchers has predicted the existence of an "Earth-like" planet in our solar system, located just a few billion miles beyond Neptune. This discovery comes from Patryk Sofia Lykawka and Takashi Ito, eminent researchers from Japan’s Kindai University and the National Astronomical Observatory. They recently unveiled their findings in the Astronomical Journal, following an extensive study of the Kuiper Belt, a large ring of interstellar objects.
Hunting for Planets in the Kuiper Belt
Lykawka and Ito have been focusing their research on the Kuiper Belt, an area filled with dwarf planets, asteroids, carbon masses, and icy volatile elements like methane and ammonia. They suggest that a specific object in this ring exerts a "gravitational influence over other objects", implying its potential planetary status. "We predict the existence of an Earth-like planet. It is plausible that a primordial planetary body could survive in the distant Kuiper Belt as a Kuiper Belt planet," they stated in their report.
Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs): Clues to a New Planet
The researchers have been studying a group of objects referred to as trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs), which include a significant population of high-inclination objects and some extreme objects with peculiar orbits. Scientists believe these TNOs are remnants of the formation of the solar system. According to Lykawka and Ito, the orbits of TNOs can indicate the existence of an undiscovered planet in the outer solar system.
A Closer Look at the Hypothetical Planet
This isn’t the first time scientists have suggested the possibility of a new planet in our solar system. In 2016, Caltech astronomers Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin proposed the existence of a hypothetical ‘Planet Nine’ with a significant gravitational pull. However, these Japanese researchers believe their predicted planet is closer than ‘Planet Nine’. According to ScienceAlert.com, this Earth-like planet could potentially have a mass between 1.5 and 3 times that of Earth, an orbit whose most distant point from the Sun would be between 250 and 500 astronomical units, and an inclination of 30 degrees respective to the plane of the Solar System.
What this Discovery Could Mean
The discovery of a Kuiper belt planet could potentially offer new constraints on planet formation and dynamical evolution in the trans-Jovian region. "More detailed knowledge of the orbital structure in the distant Kuiper Belt can reveal or rule out the existence of any hypothetical planet in the outer solar system," the researchers wrote.
The potential discovery of an Earth-like planet in the distant Kuiper Belt is exciting, offering not only a chance to expand our understanding of our solar system, but also providing new insights into planet formation and dynamical evolution. As research continues, we eagerly await more information about this intriguing new celestial body.