Scientists have spent decades arguing whether any yet undiscovered planet is hiding beyond the dwarf planet Pluto, and it seems the optimists have got the upper hand.
Astronomers were scrutinizing the motion trajectories of a belt of faraway space rocks, “ETNO – extreme trans-Neptunian objects”. They registered that their actual paths surprisingly contradicted the computer-simulated trajectories as if there was something heavy that pulled the observed celestial bodies with its gravity.
The research is based on the analysis of the so-called “Kozai mechanism”, which means that a heavier celestial body can shift the orbit of a lighter one. “In this scenario, a population of stable asteroids may be shepherded by a distant, undiscovered planet larger than the Earth”, The Guardian quotes scientists as saying.
Furthermore, the study yielded another unexpected result. "The exact number is uncertain, given that the data that we have is limited, but our calculations suggest that there are at least two planets, and probably more, within the confines of our Solar System", Carlos de la Fuente Marcos adds.
Scientists are expecting to carry out further studies to confirm or refute the discovery.
If upcoming research will corroborate the new hypothesis, it will certainly revolutionize our understanding of how planet systems around stars are formed. "If it is confirmed, our results may be truly revolutionary for astronomy," de la Fuente Marcos suggested.