An astronomical discovery: Planet Nine

Possible location of Planet Nine. Courtesy of

October 4, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) released information about the potential existence of a new planet, “Planet Nine.” While Planet Nine’s existence is still unconfirmed, as more information emerges, it is becoming harder to ignore.
In 2016, astronomer Dr. Michael E. Brown and theoretical astrophysicist Dr. Konstantin Batygin, both from the California Institute of Technology, announced that they gathered evidence of a planet orbiting distantly in the solar system. Dr. Brown and Dr. Batygin suspect that Planet Nine is currently in the outer third stage of orbit and that has an estimated 20,000-year orbit around the Sun, according to  

This is an artistic representation of a planet with a mass ten times that of Earth. Courtesy of

Upper School Science Teacher Mr. Robert Morrow, who is teaching an astronomy course at Sacred Heart Greenwich this year, provided insight on Dr. Brown and Dr. Batygin’s work regarding Planet Nine.
“What is coming out of the work of Brown and Batygin is a data-driven analysis of the existence of Planet Nine, and so they are looking at several different lines of research to confirm their hypothesis that Planet Nine exists,” Mr. Morrow said. “What Brown and Batygin have found is the more they say Planet Nine doesn’t exist the more they realize their data tells them otherwise.”
NASA has evidence that makes them confident of Planet Nine’s existence. The existence of Planet Nine would explain the solar system’s misalignment over its 4.5 billion-year history, as the planet would have the ability to impact how the other planets naturally orbit the Sun, according to Planet Nine’s influence on the orbit of the other planets would also explain the existence of distant Kuiper Belt Objects.
The Kuiper Belt is where millions of objects are orbiting beyond the Sun, Neptune, and Pluto. These objects are all pointing in the same direction and are tilted exactly 30 degrees under the solar system’s orbital plane, according to Kuiper Belt Objects are frozen substances that orbit in the opposite direction of everything else in the solar system. This oppositional force, pulling these objects out of their orbital plane and pushing them further toward Neptune, would be Planet Nine’s effect on the gravitational pull of the Kuiper Belt Objects, according to
The location of the Kuiper Belt begins near Neptune’s orbit and expands beyond Pluto. Courtesy of

Mr. Morrow also explained why, over time, theories have led to the suggestion that Planet Nine exists. 
“We’ve been trying to develop theories for the orbits of several Kuiper Belt Objects. [The theories] become more and more complex and fall apart. So instead of theorizing that the orbits just happen, we now start looking at the possibility there is an object with enough mass out there causing this,” Mr. Morrow said.
Sacred Heart Greenwich’s Astronomy Technician Mr. Rick Bria also provided insight into the researcher’s hypotheses regarding the existence of Planet Nine.
“Researchers have hypothesized that the orbital alignment of newly discovered objects beyond Neptune (Trans Neptunian Objects) suggest a yet unknown planet’s gravitational pull is influencing them. Tenuous evidence for sure, but fascinating nonetheless,” Mr. Bria said.
Dr. Brown and Dr. Batygin predict that Planet Nine will not affect or harm Earth, as the planet’s orbit is the farthest away from the Sun, leading to a vast distance between the two planets. It is impossible for Planet Nine to come out of its orbit and collide with Earth, according to
The possible location of Planet Nine is outlined in orange, while the other six identified objects beyond Neptune are outlined in purple. Courtesy of

Mr. Bria further explained that Planet Nine will have no physical effect on Earth or on any of the other planets in the solar system based on its location.
“Planet Nine is thought to be at least 70 times farther out than Neptune, in the remote outskirts of our solar system. It will not affect any of the known planets, in spite of what some Internet conspiracy mongers may say,” Mr. Bria said.    
Although it is difficult to prove the existence of Planet Nine, NASA says that it is highly probable that the solar system does, in fact, have a ninth planet with evidence supporting its existence. According to, Dr. Brown and Dr. Batygin will continue their research on Planet Nine. If the existence of Planet Nine is confirmed, it will be one of the largest planet discoveries of this century and will provide new, significant information about the solar system.
– Christine Guido, Staff Writer