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Dakota Phillips

MCOM-202, Finney
2/22/17
There Might be an Unseen Planet Lurking in our Solar
System and NASA Wants Your Help Finding it.

Average citizens have been given the chance of discovering new


planets. NASA released a statement in February asking the public to scan the
solar system using images from space to help find the elusive Plant 9, also
known as Plant X.
For everyday citizens who want to hunt for the Planet 9, all he or she
must to do is use the website Zooniverses program called Backyard Worlds:
Find Planet 9. The Zooniverse website explains that the program asks
participants to look at images that are captured by NASAs Wide-field
Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). Once viewing the images, participants have
the ability to flag objects that stand out to them. With this help from the
public, astronomers can then go through the flagged data and see if these
objects have the characteristics of a planet.
This is not, however, the detection or discovery of a new planet. Its
too early to say with certainty theres a so-called Planet X, said Jim Green,
director of NASAs Planetary Science Division. What were seeing is an early
prediction based on modeling form limited observations. Its the start of a
process that could lead to an exciting result.
Planet 9 was hypothesized when University of Arizonas Renu
Halhotra, Kathryn Volk and Xianyu Wang saw icy objects in the Kuiper Belt
have orbital motion. Planet 9 is believed by Caltech researchers to have a
highly elongated orbit that that surpasses Plutos orbit, have a mass ten
times Earths mass and is about 20 times the distance from the sun as
Neptune is. Caltech researchers and astronomers predict that it may take
about 20,000 years for Planet 9 to make a complete orbit around the sun.
Neptune is the planet that was discovered in a similar way, said Dr.
Doug Edmonds, a Physicist at Emory & Henry College. Neptune was
discovered in some sense mathematically before it was found by
astronomers. They found that there were deviations from what they
expected form the known planets. Therefore if they put the planet in, they
would get those exact deviations. So, they hypothesized that there was
another planet out there that they gave the name Neptune, and then it was
discovered by astronomers afterward.
Math is not the only tool useful when trying to identify objects in space.
The motion of an object can tell you something about the objects that are
around it, and so thats what theyve done here with Planet 9. Theyve looked
at objects that they can see the motion of and said that something is
perturbing the motion in a way that makes it look like a planet of this size.
With the help of mathematicians, astronomers, Zooniverse and even
every day citizens, we may soon finally find and fully understand the
mysterious Planet 9.