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February 15, 2011

Another Planet?!


This seems incredibly relevant to what we've been discussing in lecture, especially with all of the Pluto not being a planet talk. A few astrophysicists believe that we MAY have discovered another planet to our solar system, totaling nine.

Now, this is a big MAY because we have just recently discounted Pluto as a planet completely, and some early observations of "Tyche" say that we may not be able to see it for another two years. How we got these observations without seeing the planet, I'm not entirely sure.

One of the main arguments of the article conclude that if this object is indeed a planet, it is a planet FOUR TIMES the size of Jupiter. That's pretty huge, so it seems to me that if anything is going to "become" a planet, it might as well be t his guy.

Posted by strodel at February 15, 2011 10:16 PM


I agree with you that it does seem kind of strange that there would be a planet that is 4 times the size of Jupiter in our solar system at such a large distance away from the Sun. However, I feel that anything is possible in astronomy and there might be a chance that there could be a ninth planet given what we now know about how the solar system forms. I also read somewhere that some astronomers think that the new "planet" is actually a brown dwarf which is a failed star and is now just a very large gas giant. I guess time will tell what this object turns out to be.

Posted by: rymkelly at February 16, 2011 10:43 AM

There is some skepticism among astronomers of the existence of Tyche.
The two astronomers who claimed Tyche's existence say that the gravitational pull of Tyche is causing irregularities in the orbit of a few of the asteroids and comets in the Oort Cloud.
Some of the astronomers opposing the idea say that the data shows very small changes in the orbits of the comets and asteroids and that these changes may not be statistically significant. Some also believe the two astronomers were mistaken in their statistical analysis of the comets and asteroids.
We should find out more about the validity of the claims in the following two years, when it is expected to come into view.

Posted by: stoneswt at February 18, 2011 06:23 PM

Professor Miller also talked about this in lecture. He said that astronomers think this new planet could be the cause of why comets are mostly coming into our solar system from the same direction. He also said that the planet isn't visible to us because sunlight cannot reach this far out. If this new planet is indeed there, there will probably be a lot of debating on whether or not to consider it part of our solar system. Hopefully technology will advance a great deal sooner than two years to tell if it is actually out there.

Posted by: nelalam at February 20, 2011 02:11 PM

The technological trick is to have an Infrared Camera (like the one we use in class) that has the resolution (think pixels, like your phone/camera, or HD TV vs. non-HD) to pick out this planet. Tyche is expected to have a Blackbody temperature of 200 Kelvin. That means it should have a peak wavelength in the Infrared. NASA's WISE telescope has instrument that should be able to see small objects at this wavelength.

How small is it? Well, remember from Discussion section how small the Earth as when seen from Jupiter/Saturn?

Earth was scaled to the size of a pencil tip, and Saturn was at the steps of Hatcher Library, while the Earth was near the flagpole. Tyche is theorized to be 40x the diameter of earth. But it is also at 2000AU (or further), which is 400x the distance to Jupiter.

In you Discussion, Jupiter was ~120 meters from the flagpole. If Tyche existed at 2000AU, it would be 1km from the flagpole, and about 40mm in diameter (or the size of a golf ball).

So in other words, you would need to be able to see a golf ball on the giant "M" in the Michigan Banner on the Stadium from the steps of the Michigan Union.

Pretty darn small. huh?

Posted by: christoq at February 21, 2011 11:06 AM

I agree with you, I think it's so strange how we can make these observations about other objects that may be out in our solar system when we can't even see them. It's also amazing to think that a planet could be as large as four times the size of Jupiter when you think of its size compared to Earth! Hopefully we'll be hearing more about this planet that may be out there, and possibly even get to see what it looks like. Although unfortunately the chances of that are highly unlikely considering its distance from the Sun is so great and it is complete blackness out there.

Posted by: schultka at February 26, 2011 02:32 PM

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