A new theory presented at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society contends that the detached objects interact like bumper cars, creating the odd movements that appear to defy what we can see in the solar system so far.
"We can solve a lot of these problems just by taking into account that question". Sedna circles the sun at a distance of almost 8 billion miles and doesn't even come near solar system's giant planets.
Ann-Marie Madigan, from University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder), said in a statement. According to NASA, that planet would have to be substantial, with a mass 10 times that of Earth, orbiting the sun every 10,000 to 20,000 years, circling 20 times farther out than Neptune.More news: China and USA in war of words over Tiananmen crackdown death toll
"The picture we draw of the outer solar system in textbooks may have to change". Dubbed Planet Nine, this mysterious body could actually be a cluster of asteroids and other space rocks that are firing comets into the Solar System.
It was the dynamics of detached objects like Sedna that astrophysicist Jacob Fleisig was studying when he noticed, according to his computer simulations, that occasionally they came into alignment, like the hands of a clock. The orbits of smaller objects, such as asteroids, however, move faster than the larger ones, such as Sedna.
According to CU Boulder, the team looked at one of these objects in particular - a dwarf planet called Sedna, which orbits the sun at a distance of almost eight billion miles and is distant enough so as not to be affected by Neptune's gravity, the Inquisitr previously reported - and tried to understand why its orbit looks the way it does. This explains the oddball behavior of Sedna, which is a little smaller than Pluto but follows a massive, circular orbital path to circumnavigate the sun, just like other detached objects.More news: Russian court gives Ukrainian reporter 12 years for espionage
An artist's rendering of Sedna, which looks reddish in color in telescope images. "This cycle could wind up shooting comets toward the inner solar system-including in the direction of Earth-on a predictable timescale".
"The objects we've seen so far are just the tip of the iceberg", Fleisig said. "These orbits crash into the bigger body (a large TNO, not a gas giant), and what happens is those interactions will change its orbit from an oval shape to a more circular shape", he said.
These bumper car-like interactions can explain numerous anomalies out there, without needing to invent a huge Planet Nine. One of these objects, called 2012 VP113, immediately jumped to the eye of astronomers, as it seemed to orbit in an extremely irregular way: the two researchers then hypothesized, using computer simulations, that the cause of alterations in the orbit of VP113 could be referable to the presence of a planet of mass between 2 and 15 terrestrial masses and about 200 astronomical units (about 30 billion kilometers) from the Earth.More news: Hundreds of shoes memorializing people who died because of Hurricane Maria
It's not impossible one of these caused the collision which wiped out the dinosaurs, the researchers said. "While we're not able to say that this pattern killed the dinosaurs, it's tantalizing", says Fleisig.