'Planet Nine' may actually be a black hole

Pablo Tucker
September 30, 2019

A new paper posted Tuesday on arXiv, an online repository for research that has not been peer-reviewed, suggests that Planet Nine could be one of these ancient black holes, roughly 10 times Earth's mass and the size of a bowling ball.

To detect objects of that mass, whether planets or black holes, astronomers can look for weird blobs of light formed when light "bends" around the object's gravitational field on its journey to Earth (simulated image above). The planet was believed to be 10 times bigger than Earth and 20 times farther out from the sun than Neptune - the outer-most planet in the solar system - making it hard for astronomers to spot.

Science website Gizmodo is reporting the scientists behind the black hole proposal - Jakub Scholtz and James Unwin - still think a planet is the more likely explanation, but they made the black hole proposal because they wanted astronomers to be more creative in their search.

For almost five years, growing numbers of researchers have blamed the weird orbits of distant solar system objects on the gravitational effects of an as-yet-undiscovered "Planet Nine" that lies in the icy realm far beyond Neptune.

Primordial black holes could only have formed in the first second following the Big Bang, according to Astronomy.com.

Unwin advocated looking for the object in cosmic ray bursts, along with using typical planet-searching tools, like searching in visible light to identify the theorised object's existence by the effect it has on light emanating from more distant objects. Those anomalies would come and go as Planet Nine moves in front of a distant star and continues in its orbit.

Brown and Batygin's discovery of evidence that the sun is orbited by an as-yet-unseen planet-that is about 10 times the size of Earth with an orbit that is about 20 times farther from the sun on average than Neptune's-changes the physics. It could take between 10,000 and 20,000 years for it to complete one trip around the sun.

Since the mysterious world exerts such a powerful gravitational force on a large region of the solar system, Brown called it "the most planet-y of the planets in the whole solar system".

Both of these unusual phenomena are likely caused by the interference of unknown objects, each with similar mass.

"Planet Nine could be a five-Earth-mass hamburger", he said.

"What if Planet 9 is a Primordial Black Hole?" So the hunt for Planet Nine, they suggest, should include a search for moving sources of x-rays, gamma rays, and other types of radiation, since those clues could indicate the edges of a black hole. The authors said that if they find these signals, it would mean that Planet Nine is actually a black hole. They'll be looking in particular for groups of sporadic gamma ray flashes that would move slowly across the sky, as Planet Nine would be expected to do as seen from Earth.

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