A beautiful short movie, made of original pictures from NASA’s Cassini and Voyager missions. It’s always a bit amazing to me that these spacecraft have actually been there and taken this footage of these actual planets. For a normal human being these planets are kind of abstract, but they really exist out there floating in space, and can be observed. Hopefully even by people one day.
Some people were very disappointed when Pluto was deprived of its ‘planet’ status, to be reduced to a mere massive rock or dwarf planet. There’s a Facebook group with 1.7 million members called ‘When I was your age, Pluto was still a planet’.
A new ninth planet in the solar system may be found, however! Complete with moons and everything. And not just any old planet. Tyche is the name of a gas giant that may be four times the size of Jupiter, and is hiding in the Oort cloud (the ring of asteroids that is at the edges of the solar system). Astrophysicists John Matese and Daniel Whitmire from the University of Louisiana claim that data gathered from a NASA space telescope already proves its existence, but that data needs to be further analyzed. The first analyzed data would be released in April.
Whether Tyche is gonna be designated part of the solar system is up to the International Astronomical Union (IAU), however. It’s 375 times farther than Pluto, and may be from a another system but captured by ours.
The Independent (also see Gizmodo):
The hunt is on for a gas giant up to four times the mass of Jupiter thought to be lurking in the outer Oort Cloud, the most remote region of the solar system. The orbit of Tyche (pronounced ty-kee), would be 15,000 times farther from the Sun than the Earth’s, and 375 times farther than Pluto’s, which is why it hasn’t been seen so far. But scientists now believe the proof of its existence has already been gathered by a Nasa space telescope, Wise, and is just waiting to be analysed.
The first tranche of data is to be released in April, and astrophysicists John Matese and Daniel Whitmire from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette think it will reveal Tyche within two years. “If it does, John and I will be doing cartwheels,” Professor Whitmire said. “And that’s not easy at our age.”
Once Tyche has been located, other telescopes could be pointed at it to confirm the discovery.
Whether it would become the new ninth planet would be decided by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). The main argument against is that Tyche probably formed around another star and was later captured by the Sun’s gravitational field. The IAU may choose to create a whole new category for Tyche, Professor Matese said.
Tyche will almost certainly be made up mostly of hydrogen and helium and will probably have an atmosphere much like Jupiter’s, with colourful spots and bands and clouds, Professor Whitmire said. “You’d also expect it to have moons. All the outer planets have them,” he added.