It’s been over a hundred years since stargazers started scratching their heads over why Neptune and Uranus are being pulled by some bizarre gravity. A few people thought that it might have something to do with an unknown, distant planet they called ‘Planet X’. But others weren’t convinced. That was until recently, when a worldwide crew of researchers unraveled an entirely different answer.
Strap yourself in, because there’s a new theory about to come out in MNRAS Letters. A group of scientists observed strange gravitational disturbances and think they might be coming from a planet-sized entity hidden in the Oort Cloud. This halo of icy bodies is much farther away than the Kuiper Belt and it’s sprouting some mysterious goings-on.
The strange planet may have formed billions of years ago when larger debris gathered and eventually grew to planet-like sizes before being thrown into the Oort Cloud, according to the researchers. Alternately, they suggest that interstellar physics may have caused an exoplanet from an alien star system to become trapped in the solar system’s Oort Cloud. They hypothesize that these trapped planets would have extremely broad orbits, similar to the mysterious comets of the Oort Cloud.
Admittedly, both theories are not highly probable. The scientists estimate just a 0.5 percent likelihood of the Sun ejecting a planet into the Oort Cloud and a mere seven percent chance of capturing a Neptune-like exoplanet after its expulsion from its native star system.
The idea of hidden planets lurking in the depths of the solar system is undeniably alluring. However, exploring the Oort Cloud has proved a daunting task. No space mission has been specifically aimed at investigating this distant realm so far. While Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 continue their brave voyages into interstellar space, there is no immediate plan for them to venture into the Oort Cloud.
This most recent notion captures the mind and opens up fresh research directions for science. Could there be an unknown Earth tucked away in the Oort Cloud’s ice comets? We might one day learn the mysteries that are concealed in the farthest regions of our solar system as technology develops and missions to do so become more viable. Until then, astronomers will continue to solve the puzzles of our solar system and, possibly, reveal the identity of the elusive ninth planet, assuming one even exists.