On October 21, 2003, astronomer Mike Brown discovered Eris, a new dwarf planet, the second largest in the solar system. It turns out that it is 27% larger than Pluto and hence lost its status as a planet and Mike Brown became the “man who killed Pluto”. But now a new cosmic body could soon replace the former ninth planet.
Following its discovery, Eris was christened the tenth planet of the Solar System by NASA. But astronomers gradually realised that many other bodies like Eris could be hiding in the dark recesses of our Solar System, motivating the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to define with precision as to what constitutes a planet. A list of criteria was adopted in 2006 and Pluto and Eris were dethroned joining get circle of lesser bodies called dwarf planets.
One could blame Mike Brown for “murdering Pluto” as some have done, but the job of a researcher is not to give a subjective opinion but rather to expose the hard facts. Moreover, it seems that more recent work conducted by the astronomer may provide a replacement for the now vacant position of the ninth planet.
"Planet Nine", or Phattie, is a hypothetical planet whose existence has been indirectly suggested by disturbances in the orbit of several trans neptunian objects (beyond the planet Neptune). Thanks to a new method, able to measure Kuiper belt disturbances more accurately, Mike Brown and his collaborator Konstantin Batygin have determined that they would have a 0.2% chance of occurring on their own.
"Although the analysis does not announce anything directly about the presence of Planet Nine, it indicates that the hypothesis rests on solid foundations," says Brown. According to their estimates, Phattie would be five times larger than Earth. If its existence is confirmed, it will be the fifth largest planet in the Solar System.
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