Pseudo-Pluto, a New Ninth Planet!

Photo by Unknown artist sponsored by Caltech

Photo by Unknown artist sponsored by Caltech

Andrew Jones, Copy Editor

On January 20th, 2016, the latest astrological discovery of a new ninth planet from the sun was published by Caltech researchers. The paper had a very specific purpose; the researchers at Caltech haven’t actually found it yet.

Caltech believes the planet exists beyond the Kuiper belt that begins after Neptune’s orbit. The asteroid belt has been generally ignored as debris, including the dwarf planet Pluto, which was categorized as such because of its location in the belt and lack of gravitational pull. Anything beyond the belt was assumed to be empty space, before Dr. Brown, the same scientists who fought against Pluto’s planetary categorization, discovered a 600-mile wide sphere only eight billion miles outside the Kuiper belt.


Named Sedna, the object in question led others to investigate the outer reaches of space even more. It wasn’t until 2014 that another, smaller Sedna-like object was found in a similar orbit- this one named “Biden”. The logical conclusion from the two discoveries was that the objects are in another gravitational field, but skeptics doubted and disbelieved the findings, even though the known orbits of Sedna and Biden have a 0.007 percent chance of occurring naturally.

computer data supporting the ninth's planet location
Photo by Caltech’s Findings

It was after six other orbiting rocks were studied that Dr. Batygen, a theorist, began running computer simulations to logically place the gravitational field. All rational places had unseen effects on the real location of items in the Kuiper belt, until a theoretical ninth planet was suggested. According to Dr. Batygen, that particular simulation was “a beautiful match to the real data”, including the orbiting rocks being perfectly perpendicular to the orbits Sedna and Biden were found in.


This has been heralded as the first convincing paper to provide evidence of a new ninth planet possibly existing. Many other predictions have been made since 1930, when “Planet X” was found to actually be Pluto, and later not even a planet. Most false alarms have been misinterpretation of data creating oddities that people assumed meant something big and new had been found. A difference between those “findings” and this prediction is that Caltech wasn’t looking for an explanation or new planet, they just found the irregularity as an accident and started to question it, eventually finding evidence that it may be logical they had stumbled upon a new planet.

Dr. Mike Brown (right) and Konstantin Batygin (left), the two most influential people in planet nine’s discovery
Photo by

The theoretical planet has no name yet, but is believed to be another gas giant like those of Jupiter or Venus. Scientists all around are hopeful and excited at the prospect of finding it, and those at Caltech have told their story multiple times in the hopes of inspiring other people into action with them. The only prediction made is that they should find it within 5 years, shorter if others work with them. The planet, if real, would be undoubtedly classified as a planet (since the proposed size would be that of 10 Earths), would take 20,000 years for one full orbit around the sun, and will be located roughly 200-300 times as far as Earth is from the sun. It’s so distant, even Pluto would look brighter than it from our view.


So, if you have a backyard telescope or a friend at Hubble, take a long look into the night sky — you never know what you might find.