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Japanese Researchers Find Evidence of Hidden Planet in Kuiper Belt

A pair of Japanese astrophysicists have found possible evidence of an Earth-like planet residing in the Kuiper Belt, a region of icy bodies beyond the orbit of Neptune.

Final orbital structure after evolving the primordial scattering population over 4.5 Gyr under the gravitational influence of the four giant planets and a KBP with m = 1.5 M⊕, a = 250 au, q = 195 au, and i = 30°. The results obtained for the control model and this model are represented by black and red symbols, respectively. Blue asterisks represent the extreme TNOs. The KBP's orbit is indicated by the green square. Credit: The Astronomical Journal (2023). DOI: 10.3847/1538-3881/aceaf0
Final orbital structure after evolving the primordial scattering population over 4.5 Gyr under the gravitational influence of the four giant planets and a KBP with m = 1.5 M⊕, a = 250 au, q = 195 au, and i = 30°. The results obtained for the control model and this model are represented by black and red symbols, respectively. Blue asterisks represent the extreme TNOs. The KBP's orbit is indicated by the green square. Credit: The Astronomical Journal (2023). DOI: 10.3847/1538-3881/aceaf0

The researchers, Patryk Sofia Lykawka of Kindai University and Takashi Ito of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, published their findings in the journal The Astronomical Journal.


Lykawka and Ito analyzed the orbits of trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs), which are icy bodies that orbit the sun beyond Neptune. They found that some of the TNOs have orbits that are strangely tilted or elongated, which they believe could be the result of the gravitational pull of a hidden planet.


The researchers ran computer simulations to test their hypothesis, and the results showed that a planet with a mass of about 1.5 to 3 times that of Earth could explain the observed behavior of the TNOs. The planet would have an orbit that takes it between 250 and 500 astronomical units (AU) from the sun, which is about 2,500 to 5,000 times the distance between Earth and the sun.

The researchers say that their findings are not definitive proof of a hidden planet in the Kuiper Belt, but they do provide strong evidence that such a planet could exist. Further observations of TNOs are needed to confirm the existence of the planet, but if it is real, it would be a major discovery that would change our understanding of the solar system.


The discovery of a hidden planet in the Kuiper Belt would be a significant finding, as it would be the first new planet discovered in our solar system in over 200 years. It would also raise new questions about the formation and evolution of the solar system.


The researchers are continuing to study the orbits of TNOs in search of more evidence of the hidden planet. They are also using computer simulations to try to better understand the planet's properties and its possible impact on the Kuiper Belt.


The discovery of a hidden planet in the Kuiper Belt would be a major scientific breakthrough, and it would be an exciting new chapter in our exploration of the solar system.


Journal Information: Patryk Sofia Lykawka et al, Is There an Earth-like Planet in the Distant Kuiper Belt?, The Astronomical Journal (2023). DOI: 10.3847/1538-3881/aceaf0

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