The Sun Has Another Planet?

This is something we feel compelled to blog about, although it’s unrelated to creationism and we don’t have anything profound to say about it. PhysOrg has this headline: Researchers find evidence of a real ninth planet.

We know you’re going to click over there to read it, so we only need to give you a few excerpts. PhysOrg says:

Caltech researchers have found evidence of a giant planet tracing a bizarre, highly elongated orbit in the outer solar system. The object, which the researchers have nicknamed Planet Nine, has a mass about 10 times that of Earth and orbits about 20 times farther from the sun on average than does Neptune (which orbits the sun at an average distance of 2.8 billion miles). In fact, it would take this new planet between 10,000 and 20,000 years to make just one full orbit around the sun.

This is a link to the paper on the new planet, published in the Astronomical Journal: EVIDENCE FOR A DISTANT GIANT PLANET IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM. You can read it online without a subscription. Here’s a bit more from PhysOrg:

The researchers, Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown, discovered the planet’s existence through mathematical modeling and computer simulations but have not yet observed the object directly. “This would be a real ninth planet,” says Brown, the Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor of Planetary Astronomy. “There have only been two true planets discovered since ancient times, and this would be a third. It’s a pretty substantial chunk of our solar system that’s still out there to be found, which is pretty exciting.”

The two “true planets” discovered since ancient times are Neptune and Uranus. That excludes Pluto, of course. This last excerpt is for all you Pluto fans who are still mourning over that orb’s reclassification:

Brown, well known for the significant role he played in the demotion of Pluto from a planet to a dwarf planet adds, “All those people who are mad that Pluto is no longer a planet can be thrilled to know that there is a real planet out there still to be found,” he says. “Now we can go and find this planet and make the solar system have nine planets once again.”

This new planet hasn’t actually been observed, so it’s not yet confirmed that the thing exists. There have been mistaken discoveries before, notably Vulcan. We wrote about that in one of this blog’s first posts: When Gravity was a Theory in Crisis.

In closing, we should mention that the ancient system of astrology has somehow been unaffected by the discovery of new planets. That’s because, as with creationism, when a belief is unrelated to reality, it’s true forever.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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20 responses to “The Sun Has Another Planet?

  1. Can we name this one Pluto, and call the dwarf planet Not-Pluto? Cause I still miss Pluto as a planet.

  2. Rando asks: “Can we name this one Pluto, and call the dwarf planet Not-Pluto?”

    If its existence is confirmed, there’s going to be a lot of fuss about naming it.

  3. Some astrologers have included the new planets (Uranus etc.) in their systems. Some have included some of the non-planets (Ceres etc.). I presume that comets have always had a place.
    It would be IMHO consistent if astrologers would ignore the physical planets, But then, it would not be consistent to pay attention to consistency.

    BTW, about “Planet Nine”, there is a Wikipedia article in the making.

  4. To paraphrase Radiohead, “Just cause you model it, doesn’t mean it’s there”.

  5. So there may really be a “Planet Nine From Outer Space”!

  6. I doubt that there will be any attempt to name the thing until it has been actually sighted, but I may as well state my preference. I’d like it to be named Athena, the goddess of wisdom. However, except for Uranus, the planets have been given Roman names — Mercury instead of Hermes, Venus instead of Aphrodite, Mars instead of Ares, Jupiter instead of Zeus, Saturn instead of Cronus, Neptune instead of Poseidon, and (briefly) Pluto instead of Hades. The Roman name for Athena was Minerva, so that would be okay.

  7. As Pluto isn’t a planet anymore for the new 9th one I’d prefer Goofy.

  8. Eddie Janssen

    Le Verrier would be a nice name as he was the first one to use pen and paper (19th century equivalent of a computer…) in stead of a telescope to find a planet.

  9. I wonder if any YEC will use it as evidence for a young solar system?

    Orbital grouping in ω is surprising because gravitational torques exerted by the giant planets are expected to randomize this parameter over the multi-Gyr age of the solar system.

    As for a names, possibly Prometheus (forethought) because of how it was discovered or Terpsichore (muse/goddess of dance) because of how its orbit dances around.

  10. I’m going to be curmudgeonly – Pluto is the 9th planet. The current “definition” of planet is arbitrary and was decided by stellar astronomers (not planetary scientists) at the end of a conference after the planetary people had left. Stellar people don’t have say over what a planet is or isn’t. Planetary scientists do. Besides – what’s the noun in the term “dwarf planet”? Planet. Pluto is a planet. So is Ceres. So is Sedna. So is Eris. So is Quaoar.

    The researchers of this new study refer to “evidence” for this new planet. As was pointed out above, mathematical modeling is not evidence. In evolutionary biology, cladograms are not evidence, despite what cladists say. Cladograms are interpretations. Mathematical modeling is . . . modeling. There is no evidence for another large planet. Yet. What they do have are a series of observations that are being explained by a new hypothesis – that another large planet does exist. The researchers refer to their new idea as a “theory” – nope. It’s an hypothesis. There is no evidence yet. Sadly, I’ve seen scientists misuse the word “theory” quite a bit. The best known example is “String Theory”, which is 100% math with zero evidence. It’s not a theory. In fact, it’s pretty much nonsense – there is no evidence for quarks having a composite nature & there is no evidence for the existence of >3 spatial dimensions.

    OK – so this is interesting news. But the researchers are deliberately mischaracterizing the study (a bit). I thought only journalists and politicians do that.

    If the rationalist community & scientists want to continue effective opposition against pseudoscientific nonsense, the least we can do is use terminology correctly and not cry “Wolf” when there isn’t one. Creation cultists could potentially use this sort of thing to help keep their flock brainwashed.

  11. In the Star Trek universe, an extra planet beyond Pluto was called “Persephone”. (a not well-known bit of Trek Trivia)

  12. Athena would be nice. Alternatively, HippieDippie would work because it’s so far out, man. (In memory of George Carlin.)

  13. What happened to the post about Ham’s reaction to the Newsweek story?

  14. retiredsciguy asks: “What happened to the post about Ham’s reaction to the Newsweek story?”

    I mentioned it, briefly, but it wasn’t worth blogging about.

  15. James St. John: I don’t think the authors are pushing it as a “theoretical” planet. “Theory” is used colloquially to mean “hypothesis”, something creationists often try to use from the resulting confusion. There is no confusion here it is a hypothetical planet, some media might mistate this, the authors do not. This is a good case study in how the scientific method works. Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown put their paper out there and others will try to pick it apart and others may try to detect it near the location it is presumed to be. There might be a planet, there might be some other reason for the observations. The paper is part of the scientific discourse not a conclusion.

  16. I say name it “Vulcan.” For the god of fire, of course. But the pop culture reference would be cool too.

    It’s entirely possible that a planet with the described orbit would occasionally disturb another kuiper belt object enough to send it into the inner solar system, so the god of fire reference is not entirely without basis.

  17. Charles Deetz ;)

    Isn’t it troubling to creationists that planets are named for Roman gods? Would they be suggesting St. John or Moses or, gulp, Noah?

  18. Isn’t it troubling that Olympic games have ceremonies honoring Classical Greek and Roman pagan deities?
    Why do creationists have museums which are named after those pagan godesses, the Muses?

  19. Unfortunately, the name Minerva seems to be out because it’s already in use as the name of an asteroid. Classical mythology has been so heavily mined for the names of moons and asteroids that it’s hard to think of a big-time Roman god whose name hasn’t already been used. Even in 1930, Venetia Burney (the British woman who named Pluto as an 11-year-old girl) counted herself fortunate that the name Pluto was still available. Myself, I like the name Minerva enough that I’d push for an exception — a name being already in use for a moon or an asteroid doesn’t disqualify it for a major planet even if it’s a duplication — but I don’t get to make the rules.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/93_Minerva

  20. As far as I can tell, the Latin name of one of the Fates, Nona (better known by the Greek name Clotho) has not been used. It also happens to mean “nine” (I have no idea why). There is an asteroid Nonna (named after an actress).