The enigmatic Planet Nine, a gigantic unknown mass lurking on the edge of our solar system, has captivated scientists and conspirators for years, but we may finally have a method of finding it once and for all.
Planet Nine is the name given to a titanic object that disrupts the orbits of objects on the Kuiper Belt in addition to Neptune. It is believed to be somewhere in the region of five times the mass of the earth. We do not know exactly what it is. We don't know exactly where it is and we don't know where to start looking. But now a team of researchers believes we can already have all the data we need.
According to study authors Matthew J Holman, Matthew J Payne and Andras Pa, NASA's Transit Exoplanet Research Satellite (TESS) may have already seen the elusive beast, we just didn't have time to look for pictures of it in the vast treasures of data already captured.
TESS looks for exoplanets using the transit method, which means that it waits to watch the sky, waiting for something, anything, to cross in front of distant starlight. However, a single exposure could not capture something as distant and weak as Planet Nine, which is where another technique, known as digital tracking, would enter.
Digital tracking involves stacking images of the same field of view on top of each other, thereby increasing the brightness of distant objects. So far, the technique has been used to great effect in the search for new asteroids, but has not yet been used in the hunt for Planet Nine or any other mysterious and massive object that exists beyond Neptune.
However, since Planet Nine is a moving target, some calculations (or assumptions in layman's terms) are needed to figure out its trajectory as it moves through the void of space. Theoretically, this would allow scientists to stack the images and increase the brightness of the object.
"To discover new objects with unknown trajectories" the researchers wrote in their article, "We can try every possible orbit!"
Digital tracking was used in conjunction with the Hubble Space Telescope to discover various objects besides Neptune; therefore, the technique is proven; However, the task is somewhat gigantic.
While it is theoretically possible, in practice, anyone hoping to find Planet Nine in the TESS data would have to test every possible orbit in a Herculean task that even the most powerful supercomputers in the world would need some time to do, at least for now. While.
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