Could there be an as-yet undiscovered planet stalking the outer reaches of the solar system? Well, come 2012 and a whole host of end of the world doomsdaypredictions, many of which center on mysterious planet Nibiru, the search for thus undiscovered, theoretical planet became a phenomenon. Now, according to new research, the odds of such a world lurking in the outer solar system are unlikely
Recently, two new studies appearing in the Astrophysical Journal that utilized data from an all-sky scan conducted by NASA's Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) came to the same finding: there are no large planets in the outer solar system. The studies did find, however, thousands of new, small stars and brown dwarfs, gaseous bodies caught between star and planet.
Why did it take so long to find these objects? Simple: they're too dim to see in visual light. In contrast, WISE searches in the infrared, a fancy word or heat. By looking for heat signatures, WISE can detect things unseen in visual light. To this effect, WISE was able to find brown dwarfs at over 6 light years distance, making it very unlikely that a planet much closer could escape detection.
Still, though, it is doubtful that the search for Planet X/Nemesis will go away any time soon.
In 1781, William Herschel discovered Uranus, the 7th planet from the Sun and the first planet to be discovered with a telescope. However, after some observations, it was noticed that Uranus did not orbit the Sun as it should. Instead, it appeared as though another large, more distant body was perturbing its gravity. In time, this mathematical model led to the discovery of the planet Neptune.
So, Neptune having been discovered by a model, more calculations showed that Neptune had Uranus-lie oddities in its orbit, which sent astronomers looking for a ninth, even more distant planet. Unfortunately, these initial calculations were in error and, with more accurate data, it was shown that Neptune had no such orbital irregularities.
However, the astronomical urban legend refuses to go away, even to this day.
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