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Scientists have made progress in narrowing down the search space for the elusive Planet Nine, a hypothetical planet that could explain strange phenomena in our solar system. Using data from the Zwicky Transient Facilities archive and The Dark Energy Survey, researchers have now excluded 78 percent of the search space, reducing the potential objects that could be Planet Nine from 1.2 billion to 244 million. While the planet has not been directly observed yet, the researchers still believe in its existence and are hopeful that further study will unveil its true nature.
No one's actually seen this mysterious ninth planet, but a preprint published on arXiv has significantly narrowed the search field and explains that Planet Nine existing is still the researchers' preferred hypothesis.
According to the Planet Nine hypothesis, the planet is located at the far reaches of our solar system, and its gravitational pull could explain the odd orbits of extreme trans-Neptunian objects (ETNOs) that cluster together and have tilted orbits. The latest work by researchers from CalTech and Harvard University excludes an additional 17 percent of the search space, bringing the total exclusion up to 78 percent. However, the researchers are cautious about further trimming the search space, as any cuts could potentially remove real detections of Planet Nine. The search for Planet Nine remains a challenging task, but the progress made in narrowing down the search space brings scientists closer to finding this mysterious planet.
While it may seem small, that trimming of space represents a trimming of potential objects that could be Planet Nine from 1.2 billion to 244 million, with researchers hesitant to trim the fat further. While searching for Planet Nine through this large data set remains a formidable task, we could find no additional filters that appeared to safely further reduce the data set, the preprint authors write. Any one of these cuts in the data has the possibility of removing real detections of Planet Nine. Our calibration method must by necessity take this possibility into account.