Published: Fri, June 08, 2018
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Gravitational "bumper cars" could put Planet Nine hypothesis on ice

Gravitational

But Madigan and her colleagues calculated that the orbits of Sedna and its ilk may result from these bodies jostling against each other and space debris in the outer solar system.

In the years since, more evidence of a ninth planet has turned up in the orbits of trans-Neptunian objects and the wobble of the Sun, while other astronomers have modeled its composition and even floated the idea of a Mars-sized 10th planet. "What does their collective gravity do?" said Madigan of the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences (APS) and JILA.

Bumper car-like interactions at the edges of our solar system-and not a mysterious ninth planet-may explain the dynamics of unusual bodies called "detached objects", according to a new study.

"The picture we draw of the outer solar system in textbooks may have to change".

Dwarf planets like Sedna, reports Cnet, have odd orbits around the Sun and one of the reasons for this could be a yet-to-be-seen ninth planet that is large enough, or with enough mass to exert gravitational tugs on them.

Researchers at California University Boulder (CU Boulder) presented a new theory about the existence of icy, minor planets almost eight billion miles from the sun.

"There could be thousands of these (smaller) bodies out there waiting to be detected", said Jacob Fleisig, a University of Colorado at Boulder undergraduate in astrophysics who presented the new research Monday here at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Denver.

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"The picture we have in our head is a lot of little moons floating around the solar system, interacting with comets", Madigan told reporters yesterday during a news conference, notes Space.com.

Small objects are enough for explaining weird orbits.

"These orbits crash into the bigger body, and what happens is those interaction will change its orbit from an oval shape to a more circular shape". But since Planet Nine has yet to be directly observed, some scientists are naturally questioning its existence.

Remarkably, these relatively insignificant objects may also be culpable in the extinction of the dinosaurs.

If this is true, then Earth makes no exception and could also be subjected to the repeating cycle of cosmic bombarding triggered by the small gravitational interactions in the Kuiper Belt.

What's intriguing about this new "asteroid swarm" hypothesis is that it may prove that the Chicxulub asteroid (which ended up impacting Earth and wiping out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago) wasn't an accident-it was part of a 30-million-year pattern that may spell doom for humanity.

"While we're not able to say that this pattern killed the dinosaurs", Fleisig said, "it's tantalizing".

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