STATES CHRONICLE – The work of astronomers is never ending. With so many planets to investigate out there and with our capabilities of searching for them increasing, they have quite a lot on their plate. But among the myriad of things that bug most astronomers about the space around us, there is one thing in particular that takes the cake.
And that is Planet Nine. The highly hypothesized planet at the edge of our solar system still remains nothing but a theory despite growing evidence pointing to its existence. And despite the fact that its existence hasn’t even been confirmed yet, astrophysicists speculate that Planet Nine might be responsible for Earth’s mass extinctions – particularly that of the dinosaurs.
Before we get into the specifics of a hypothesized planet’s responsibility for the death of the dinosaurs, let’s talk about how scientists are able to look at planets hundreds of light years away but can’t confirm the existence of one in our own backyard. The answer is actually pretty simple if you know how looking at far-away planet works.
Distant planets are generally investigated by looking into the dip in light caused by the planet passing between us and the planet’s star. That short window of opportunity is how astrophysicists investigate planets hundreds of light years away. Meanwhile, the planets in our solar system are investigated via telescope or via space crafts passing by.
Highly speculated Planet Nine, meanwhile, is in our own, distant, back yard. This means that it cannot be examined via the same means as distant planets because its sun is our sun. And space shuttles to telescopes cannot really be used properly for two reasons – the planet’s orbit is unknown, so they wouldn’t know where to look, and it’s too far away for wider-view telescopes.
So now that you know how it is that we don’t know whether there’s an extra planet in our solar system, let’s talk speculation. A pretty old theory suggests that the comets that occasionally fall on our planet, triggering mass extinction events (like the one that killed the dinosaurs), are actually hurled towards us by Planet Nine.
The most recent paper on the subject was composed by retired University of Arkansas astrophysicist Dr. Daniel Whitmire. For a while now, it has been speculated that if Planet Nine is actually real, its orbit would occasionally put it in the Kuiper belt, a breeding ground of sorts for comets and asteroids.
As the planet passes through the belt, its huge gravitational force would deflect the trajectories of a number of these asteroids and comets, sending them hurdling towards Earth. Of course, the paper is ripe with dates coinciding with comets striking the planet, but it’s not perfect.
While the man behind the paper attributes the inconsistencies to statistical randomness, others are taking the data with a grain of salt. Particularly in the scientific world, it’s kind of difficult to take a theory like this seriously without even having evidence of the planet’s existence.
So despite the fact that Dr. Whitmire’s theory is plausible, it’s very hard to prove right without Planet Nine’s existence even being confirmed. Still, the evidence is mounting in favor of the planet’s existence. But until then, we can only speculate and be intrigued by the mysteries of outer space that baffle even the most experienced astrophysicists in the world.
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