Mysterious Planet Nine

Astronomers see a lot of evidence for a planet, ten times more massive than Earth, orbiting the sun far beyond Pluto, about two hundred times further from the sun than we are. Which evidence? The way it affects the motion of several objects in the Kuiper Belt, that region of space beyond the orbit of Neptune, where Pluto lives. Its orbit would be highly elliptical, with a distance ranging from 40 to 140 billion miles from the sun, and it takes it somewhere between ten and twenty thousand years to go around the sun!

But where is it? A planet that size would be visible with our best telescopes, if only we knew where to point them. So far, we don’t.

More puzzlingly, how did it get there? Scientist simulated various scenarios. That is was created closer to Earth then was flung out by the pull of Jupiter, that it formed closer to where it is then was moved by the pull of a wandering star, that it was captured from another solar system, that it used to be a planet without a star wandering through space…

The trouble is, none of these scenarios turns out to be very probable. We won’t know more until we find it and analyze its composition.

There is hope on the horizon. Scientists have modeled Planet Nine’s black body radiation, and it turns out to be in a relatively narrow range, giving the planet a pretty distinctive “signature”, that we ought to be able to detect by observing in the infrared frequencies. Perhaps the mystery won’t be there much longer…

“All particular knowledge is deceptive” says stanza 99 of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra. In a couple of years, the solar system will have gone from nine planets including Pluto, to eight, and now back to nine! Did the solar system change? No, what changed is our knowledge, and our discourse about it. Pluto wasn’t fazed being demoted, but some people were really upset about it! Let’s not forget that knowledge is always but a map, always a map in progress, and the map can never fully represent the territory.


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