Monday, January 25, 2016

THE DARK SIDE - 9th Planet? Home of the 'First Order'

First Order

"We can’t see this possible 9th planet, but we feel its presence" PBS NewsHour 1/22/2016


SUMMARY:  Most of us grew up thinking there were nine planets in the solar system, but that changed when Pluto got downgraded in 2006.  Now there's news that there might be a ninth planet after all.  Researchers have found evidence of a planet with a mass 10 times that of Earth.  Jeffrey Brown talks to Mike Brown of the California Institute of Technology.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  Nine planets in the solar system, right?  That’s what most of us grew up thinking.  Well, that ended in 2006, when Pluto was downgraded to a dwarf planet.

But now comes news that there might be a ninth planet after all.  Researchers at the California Institute of Technology (aka Caltech) found evidence of a planet with a mass 10 times that of Earth.

One of the Caltech astronomers, Mike Brown, joins us now.  And I will add that he is also known as the chief culprit in lowering Pluto’s status.  His memoir is titled “How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming.”

So, sort of making amends here I guess, Mike Brown?

MIKE BROWN, California Institute of Technology:  You know, it’s — I don’t think of it that way.  I think of it as, this is something I have been working at for 20 years, and Pluto was just collateral damage along the way.

JEFFREY BROWN:  All right, so let’s be as clear as we can about what you have done here.  You have not seen this new planet, right?  This is something you surmise.  Explain to us.

MIKE BROWN:  Yes, that’s absolutely right, and it’s important to know that we — no one has actually seen this planet yet.

What we have done is felt it, or, more precisely, we have seen its gravitational effect on the most distant things in the solar system.  And from those gravitational effects, we can tell that it must be out there.  And this is the same way that Neptune, for example, was discovered, by its gravitational effects on Uranus.  So, there’s a long history of this sort of astronomy.

JEFFREY BROWN:  You’re seeing gravitational effects on several — I gather, six small bodies out there?

MIKE BROWN:  There is actually quite a big collection.

There are six that are doing one thing.  There are five more that are doing something else.  And then there’s another eight doing something.  When you put them all together, it’s a pretty big population that are going in directions and moving in ways that they shouldn’t be doing unless there is something organizing the whole pattern.

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