How many planets are there in our solar system? The answer seems to change from year to year, and 2016 may be the latest bounce.
There’s evidence that at the furthest reaches of our solar system, there’s an icy planet which had remained undetected until now. It appears to be around four times the size of Earth, with ten times the mass.
So far, it’s been nicknamed “Planet Nine” (which must really hurt Pluto’s feelings), and it moves on a stretched orbit, taking between ten and twenty thousand years for complete one lap around the sun.
It’s remained unknown due to its sheer distance from us, and it never comes particulary close to the sun – in fact the closest it’s estimated to come is around 15 times the distance to Pluto, before heaing out to around 93 billion miles away. Light from the sun would take approximately a week to get there.
It was discovered by astronomers at Caltech, and at first they didn’t believe the finding. Having explained away all the other explanations, they arrived at the conclusion that they’d discovered a new planet.
The finding has caused excitement across the astrophysics community. Over the years, people have suggested that more planets may exist with our solar system, but now we have the most convincing evidence.
The Subarau telescope in Hawaii is already beginning the search to get the first images, and it’s expected that within 5 years the proof will be ready.