Previously unknown planet may be hiding in our solar system

Contributed by
Dec 14, 2012

It turns out there might be a previously undiscovered gas giant planet in our solar system. It's four times larger than Jupiter, with colorful spots and bands. It has its own moons. Its name is Tyche. And we haven't noticed it until now because it's in the hypothetical Oort Cloud, which the University of Phoenix says may contain a trillion comets.

We know it sounds far-fetched, but you could do your own sleuthing about it in this article in The Independent or, better yet, the original paper, written by astrophysicists John Matese and Daniel Whitmire from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Let's rewind. Matese and Whitmire were studying the Outer Oort Cloud when they noticed that certain long-period comets (that is, comets that orbit for more than 200 years) came from a different direction than other comets.

According to the Independent,

"Professors Matese and Whitmire first proposed the existence of Tyche to explain why many of these long-period comets were coming from the wrong direction. ...[T]hey report that more than 20 per cent too many of the long-period comets observed since 1898 arrive from a band circling the sky at a higher angle than predicted by the galactic-tide theory."

The upshot is, this can be explained by a planet like Tyche, whose gravitational pull can dislodge the orbits of comets.

Of course, counterarguments say that if this planet did exist, it would affect comets from the Inner Oort Cloud ... which hasn't been observed.

Fortunately, we'll learn whether this theory is fact within the next two years. Matese and Whitmire say the data they need has already been captured by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) and will soon be analyzed.

Matese and Whitmire are hoping their theory proves correct. "If it does, John and I will be doing cartwheels," Professor Whitmire told the Independent. "And that's not easy at our age."

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