Hovering out in the vast expanses of our solar system, a ninth planet is hurtling around the cosmos in a 15,000-year orbit around the sun. Caltech astronomers Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin announced last month that they had discovered evidence of Planet 9, ten times the mass of Earth and spinning somewhere in the extreme limits of our solar system, some 20 times further than Neptune. Unable to actually see this behemoth planet, the team was able to deduce its presence by studying the orbital paths of several dwarf planets and small Kuiper Belt Objects, revealing that a gravitational tug was affecting their movements.
Astronomers and scientists around the globe are now descending on this epic treasure hunt to officially find Planet 9, and the venerable Cassini-Huygens Saturn spacecraft could be used to deliver pertinent data that might assist in ferreting out this heavenly body.
Cassini is scheduled to descend into a controlled crash into the atmosphere of Saturn in September of 2017, but before it bows out in a blaze of glory, its years of collected radio ranging data that could possibly have picked up the mystery planet's faint radio transmissions will be pored over, allowing reserchers to model and track the exact trails of all large bodies existing in the neighborhood.
A team of French researchers has concluded that the Cassini data provides an exceptional set of measures that acts as a very sensitive device for testing the possibility of an additional massive body in the solar system. Cross-checking these pathways excludes over half the potential orbits of Planet 9 and narrows the hunt to something still nearly impossible but much more manageable. Hopefully, examining more of Cassini's storehouse of radio transmissions until its demise might find this hidden Super-Earth lurking somewhere in the inky darkness.
Do you think the astronomical community with their mighty telescopes aimed into eternity are close to finding its location or just stabbing at the stars?