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Why Can't Scientists Find the Enormous Planet X?

Planet Nine is a hypothetical planet in the outer region of the Solar System. Its gravitational effects could explain the unusual clustering of orbits for a group of extreme trans-Neptunian objects (ETNOs), bodies beyond Neptune that orbit the Sun at distances averaging more than 250 times that of the Earth.

These eTNOs tend to make their closest approaches to the Sun in one sector, and their orbits are similarly tilted. These alignments suggest that an undiscovered planet may be shepherding the orbits of the most distant known Solar System objects.


Nonetheless, some astronomers question the idea that the hypothetical planet exists and instead assert that the clustering of the eTNOs orbits is due to observing biases, resulting from the difficulty of discovering and tracking these objects during much of the year.


Based on earlier considerations, this hypothetical super-Earth-sized planet would have had a predicted mass of five to ten times that of the Earth, and an elongated orbit 400 to 800 times as far from the Sun as the Earth. Konstantin Batygin and Michael E. Brown suggested that Planet Nine could be the core of a giant planet that was ejected from its original orbit by Jupiter during the genesis of the Solar System.


Others proposed that the planet was captured from another star, was once a rogue planet, or that it formed on a distant orbit and was pulled into an eccentric orbit by a passing star.


As of February 2021, no observation of Planet Nine had been announced. While sky surveys such as Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) and Pan-STARRS did not detect Planet Nine, they have not ruled out the existence of a Neptune-diameter object in the outer Solar System.


The ability of these past sky surveys to detect Planet Nine was dependent on its location and characteristics. Further surveys of the remaining regions are ongoing using NEOWISE and the 8-meter Subaru Telescope.


Unless Planet Nine is observed, its existence is purely conjectural.

Several alternative hypotheses have been proposed to explain the observed clustering of TNOs.



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