What we can say about Planet X, the planet that’s circling our sun but isn’t
Astronomers hope to catch a glimpse of the elusive planet beyond Jupiter by measuring its brightness and detecting radio emissions and other clues, but they’re so far away that it will take decades for them to reach their destination.
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will enter its closest approach to Pluto on July 14 and approach the dwarf planet in September. Astronomers aim to use New Horizons’ historic data to get a “giant leap” closer to the Sun-like planet.
The new NASA and New Mexico Institute of Mining & Technology’s (NMIT) Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s LRO orbiter will get an unprecedented look at the region of space where the dwarf planet is and that are likely to become our first targets.
The researchers want to see if there’s an atmosphere on the other side of the sun-size planet as well as for clues about what causes it.
The area where New Horizons passes through will probably be warmer than most Earth’s orbits, similar to the outermost edge of our solar system, according to the proposal.
The LRO data and any other information obtained from the probe could help scientists figure out when the planet formed and when it became tidally locked, with one side facing the Sun. The team’s goal is to learn as much as possible about how it formed.
It’s an icy and mysterious world that’s in line with theories about the formation of our solar system. The team estimates that it was born about 4.5 billion years ago, making it the youngest planet in the solar system. The planet’s atmosphere likely covered the planet from the time of formation during an epoch when most stars were still relatively bright.The proposal also hints at a possible link between the exoplanet and a relatively recent outburst in the Milky Way, a star-forming explosion that causes the loss of gas clouds from other stars.
The researchers hope to learn more about the chemistry of water on Pluto and perhaps how many other giant planets there may be.
Bill Kurth, an astronomer at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany, said that the idea for the project is an exciting one. “A planet like these is something we can only imagine.”
Pluto, Kuiper Belt object and the inner solar system has an estimated mass of about 9 times that of the earth and is about the size of Jupiter, said the proposal’s lead author, William Gray, in an interview with NASA TV on Monday. Pluto’s atmosphere is approximately 60,000 Earth-equivalent tons. “We want to learn what it might feel like on our planet, what it’s like to live on it,” Gray said.
The plan is to take detailed measurements of the planet before its most distant approach in September, and again before its closest approach in October, according to New Horizons plan author Dr. Lori Thaler.The new LRO orbiter will be able to capture images of the planet at various distances from the sun. “That’s the next step before we can see Pluto truly,” Thaler said.
The plan also includes a novel method called adaptive optics that will be used to figure out where Earth-size objects like Earth are in space from an image, Thaler said. “We use adaptive optics to get you, if it’s a close-approach target, closer so we can measure it.”
The concept includes the concept of making a series of images of the planet so that they all look the same and then looking back to check if any particular object was captured and how close is that object compared to the Earth.