And no, we don’t mean Pluto. Some years ago, when Pluto was ousted and banished from the Solar System, people rioted—and for real. Since then, Pluto’s status as a planet has been a contentious debate between people, some saying it is not a planet because it is a dwarf planet. Pluto lies on the Kuiper belt, and will remain either a planet or a non-planet for as long as this debate rages.

Whichever way that debate goes, we know one thing for sure: Pluto isn’t the Planet 9 that we’re talking about.
But if not Pluto, then. . .

What is Planet Nine?

Planet Nine is—as far as scientists are concerned—hypothetical since no empirical evidence regarding its existence has so far been officially found.

Now you might have wondered why people have even made up an idea about a hypothetical Planet Nine without any solid proof. It’s a valid question, and we’ve got a valid answer for you. In the outskirts of our Solar System, there are to be found several extreme trans-Neptunian objects (eTNOs.

These are bodies that exist beyond Neptune. They, like the Earth and other planets, orbit our Sun—but there’s catch: they orbit the Sun at crazy speeds. They are reportedly 250 times faster in their orbits than our Earth. what’s truly peculiar about them is that their orbits are tilted to one side.

It’s a strange alignment, the tilt—and hints at the presence of a massive body someplace out there that is, through the immutable force of gravity, causing this tilt. It isn’t, therefore, the Sun’s gravity alone that’s keeping these eTNOs in their particular orbit. It must be something else.

Understanding How Planet Gravity Works

For the longest time humans thought that it was the Sun’s gravity alone that affected the orbits of the bodies around it, but we now know that isn’t true. The biggest clue comes in the form of Jupiter.

Jupiter, although far from Earth, has always affected our small planet. You might not have given it much thought, but without Jupiter’s massive gravitational pull, the Earth—and everything on it—would cease to exist. In fact, NASA says that your urge to look up at the sky is also influenced by the pull of Jupiter. And if you do, you can maybe just spot Jupiter on one of those nights when it is closest to the Earth—410 million miles away—and on those night it’s brighter than any star in the night sky.

Jupiter’s massive gravity—it is the largest body in our Solar System after the Sun—doesn’t just affect the Earth. It protects us, too. There are several large comets that “just” miss the Earth—and these are only the ones that we know of. There are others—bigger, scarier—that could smash the Earth if they ever were on a collision course with our planet. Only, Jupiter’s gravity “slings” them away from us and never even lets them come close.

Astronomers have discovered huge gashes in other planets which are surmised to have certainly been caused by a colliding comet—the Earth, though, is safe. And it’s all because of Jupiter.

We therefore have enough empirical evidence to claim that the planets’ gravities do have some effect on other Solar bodies—even the Sun.

That could also be one explanation for the eTNOs present in the outskirts of our Solar System, beyond Neptune.

The Arguments Against Planet 9’s Existence

Astronomers have now begun to doubt the existence of Planet 9 (although it was never confirmed before, either). They claim that there is no massive planet outside the Solar System affecting the elliptical orbits and tilts of the bodies in our Solar System. Instead, they say, it could be due to Neptune’s formation closer to the Sun, and then perhaps the planet moved away, causing all this tilt in the Solar System.

While this could explain the tilting, the elliptical orbits, and many of the smaller bodies seen in the Kuiper belt, it still doesn’t explain some of the extreme orbits that have been observed—and therefore remains questionable.

But then again, we must not forget that people doubted when it was first proposed that a supermassive black hole—or some other Herculean cosmological body of gravity—sits at the center of our galaxy, too. We know now that it’s true, and that a supermassive black hole is the locus of our Milky Way. It’s called Sgr A*—and is 4 million times bigger and heavier than our Sun. Of course, we have no photographic evidence of this particular black hole (like that other one) nor have we ever observed it up close (and what a sight would that be!). All we have going for the confirmation of its existence is the fact that we have studied how other interstellar bodies around it behave.

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Author's Bio: 

Emily Scott writes about creativity, technology, spirituality, health, fitness, fashion, education, literature and everything that needs to be pondered on. She has been passionate about writing from an early age, which can be seen through the articles, blogs, research papers she has been delivering.