The enigmatic Planet Nine, an unknown giant mass lurking at the edge of our solar system, has captured scientists and conspirators alike for years, but we may finally have a way to find them once and for all.
Planet Nine is the name of a Titanic object that interrupts the orbits of objects in the Kuiper Belt beyond Neptune. It is believed that it is located somewhere in the region of five times the mass of the earth. We do not know exactly what it is. We do not know exactly where it is, and we do not even know where to start looking for it. But now a research team thinks we may already have all the data we need.
According to the authors of the study, Matthew J. Holman, Matthew J. Payne, and Andras Pa, NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) may have already discovered the elusive beast in a plethora of data already captured.
TESS chases after exoplanets using the transit method the distant starlight. However, a single exposure could not possibly capture something as remote and weak as Planet Nine. This would be another technique called digital tracking.
In digital tracking, images from the same field of view stack on top of each other, increasing the brightness of distant objects. The technique has proven to be extremely effective at finding new asteroids, but it still has to be used in the search for Planet Nine or the mysterious, massive object that is beyond Neptune.
But since Planet Nine is a moving target, some calculations (or assumptions in layman terms) are needed to determine its trajectory as such, moving across the void of space , This would theoretically allow the scientists to stack the images and improve the brightness of the object.
"To discover new objects with unknown trajectories", the researchers wrote in their work, "we can try all kinds of orbits!"
Digital tracking was used in conjunction with the Hubble Space Telescope to discover multiple objects beyond Neptune, technology is proven, but the task is somewhat daunting.
While it is virtually theoretically possible to find Planet Nine in the TESS data, everyone hopes that in a Herculean task, it would be possible to test in all possible orbits whether even the most powerful supercomputers in the world would take a certain amount of time to do so to reach.
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