Hubble Discovers a Strange Exoplanet That Resembles the Long-Sought “Planet Nine”

Planet Nine

The 11-Jupiter-mass exoplanet called HD106906 b occupies an unlikely orbit around a double star 336 light-years away and it may be offering clues to something that might be much closer to home: a hypothesized distant member of our Solar System dubbed “Planet Nine.” This is the first time that astronomers have been able to measure the motion of a massive Jupiter-like planet that is orbiting very far away from its host stars and visible debris disc.

The exoplanet HD106906 b was discovered in 2013 with the Magellan Telescopes at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile’s Atacama Desert. However, astronomers did not then know anything about the planet’s orbit. This required something only the Hubble Space Telescope could do: collect very accurate measurements of the vagabond’s motion over 14 years with extraordinary precision.

The exoplanet resides extremely far from its host pair of bright, young stars — more than 730 times the distance of Earth from the Sun. This wide separation made it enormously challenging to determine the 15 000-year-long orbit in such a short time span of Hubble observations. The planet is creeping very slowly along its orbit, given the weak gravitational pull of its very distant parent stars.

Hypothesized Planet Nine

An 11-Jupiter-mass exoplanet called HD106906 b occupies an unlikely orbit around a double star 336 light-years away and may be offering clues to something that might be much closer to home: a hypothesized distant member of our Solar System dubbed “Planet Nine.” This is the first time that astronomers have been able to measure the motion of a massive Jupiter-like planet that is orbiting very far away from its host stars and visible debris disc. Credit: ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser

The Hubble team behind this new result[1] was surprised to find that the remote world has an extreme orbit that is very inclined, elongated and external to a dusty debris disc that surrounds the exoplanet’s twin host stars. The debris disc itself is very extraordinary, perhaps due to the gravitational tug of the rogue planet. This study was led by Meiji Nguyen of the University of California, Berkeley.

“To highlight why this is weird, we can just look at our own Solar System and see that all of the planets lie roughly in the same plane,” explained Nguyen. “It would be bizarre if, say, Jupiter just happened to be inclined 30 degrees relative to the plane that every other planet orbits in. This raises all sorts of questions about how HD 106906 b ended up so far out on such an inclined orbit.”

The prevailing theory to explain how the exoplanet arrived at such a distant and strangely inclined orbit is that it formed much closer to its stars, about three times the distance that Earth is from the Sun. However, drag within the system’s gas disc caused the planet’s orbit to decay, forcing it to migrate inward toward its stellar hosts. The gravitational forces from the whirling twin stars then kicked it out onto an eccentric orbit that almost threw it out of the system and into the void of interstellar space. Then a star passed very close by to this system, stabilizing the exoplanet’s orbit and preventing it from leaving its home system. Candidate passing stars had been previously identified using precise distance and motion measurements from the European Space Agency’s Gaia survey satellite.

This scenario to explain HD106906 b’s bizarre orbit is similar in some ways to what may have caused the hypothetical Planet Nine to end up in the outer reaches of our own Solar System, beyond the Kuiper Belt. Planet Nine could have formed in the inner Solar System and was then kicked out by interactions with Jupiter. However, Jupiter would very likely have flung Planet Nine far beyond Pluto. Passing stars may have stabilized the orbit of the kicked-out planet by pushing the orbit path away from Jupiter and the other planets in the inner Solar System.

“It’s as if we have a time machine for our own Solar System going back 4.6 billion years to see what may have happened when our young Solar System was dynamically active and everything was being jostled around and rearranged,” explained team member Paul Kalas of the University of California, Berkeley.

Sky Around HD 106906b

Pictured here is the region surrounding the exoplanet HD106906b. Located nearly 336 light-years from Earth, this 11-Jupiter-mass planet occupies an unlikely orbit around a double star 336 light-years away and may be offering clues to something that might be much closer to home: a hypothesized distant member of our Solar System dubbed “Planet Nine.”
This view was created from images forming part of the Digitized Sky Survey 2. Credit: ESA/Hubble, Digitized Sky Survey 2.
Acknowledgement: Davide De Martin

To date, astronomers have only circumstantial evidence for the existence of Planet Nine. They’ve found a cluster of small celestial bodies beyond Neptune that move in unusual orbits compared to the rest of the Solar System. This configuration, some astronomers think, suggests that these objects were shepherded together by the gravitational pull of a huge, unseen planet. An alternative hypothesis is that there is not one giant perturber, but instead the imbalance is due to the combined gravitational influence of much smaller objects.

“Despite the lack of detection of Planet Nine to date, the orbit of the planet can be inferred based on its effect on the various objects in the outer Solar System,” explained team member Robert De Rosa of the European Southern Observatory in Santiago, Chile who led the study’s analysis. “This suggests that if a planet was indeed responsible for what we observe in the orbits of trans-Neptunian objects it should have an eccentric orbit inclined relative to the plane of the Solar System. This prediction of the orbit of Planet Nine is similar to what we are seeing with HD 106906b.”

Scientists using the upcoming NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope plan to get additional data on HD106906 b to better understand the planet’s system. Astronomers want to know where and how the planet formed and whether the planet has its own debris system around it, among other questions.

“There are still a lot of open questions about this system,” added De Rosa. “For example, we do not conclusively know where or how the planet formed. Although we have made the first measurement of orbital motion, there are still large uncertainties on the various orbital parameters. It is likely that both observers and theorists alike will be studying HD 106906 for years to come, unraveling the many mysteries of this remarkable planetary system.”

Read New Clue to “Planet Nine” – Hubble Pins Down Weird Exoplanet With Far-Flung Orbit for more on this research.

Reference: “First Detection of Orbital Motion for HD 106906 b: A Wide-separation Exoplanet on a Planet Nine–like Orbit” by Meiji M. Nguyen, Robert J. De Rosa and Paul Kalas, 10 December 2020, The Astronomical Journal.
DOI: 10.3847/1538-3881/abc012

Notes

[1] The data used in this study were taken as part the following Hubble Space Telescope observing programs GO-10330 (PI: Ford), GO-14670 (PI: Kalas), GO-14241 (PI: Apai) and GO-14241 (PI: Apai).

These results have been published in the Astronomical Journal.

More information

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.

The international team of astronomers in this study consists of M. Nguyen, R. De Rosa, and P. Kalas.

28 Comments on "Hubble Discovers a Strange Exoplanet That Resembles the Long-Sought “Planet Nine”"

  1. Planet 10.

  2. This information is so excited and informative, i am impressed.

  3. Torbjörn Larsson | December 11, 2020 at 4:10 pm | Reply

    Nice find! There have been similar distant planets found, but not safely bound to be orbiting.

    “An alternative hypothesis is that there is not one giant perturber, but instead the imbalance is due to the combined gravitational influence of much smaller objects.”

    That is much lower likelihood in models, since the Kuiper Belt looks shaped by a single perturbator (the outward facing “cliff” where the entire disk abruptly diminish in density).

  4. Elizabeth E Ruhle | December 12, 2020 at 12:00 am | Reply

    The Man Who Fell to Earth!…David Bowie….indeed!!…thank-you Iman….sincerely, Lisa Ruhle.Thank-you my boys and Happy Birthday Christopher!

  5. Lol, indeed. I know Pluto isn’t called a planet anymore but I kept asking thru this article “oh like Pluto?” I always remember seeing Pluto shown in a disproportionately distant orbit and at an angle to the rest of the planets. I mean… Maybe I’m missing something but don’t we already have a Planet 9?? Or is there a 10th as-yet-unnamed planet that behaves the same way?

  6. Pluto is still a planet IMHO.

  7. It is true but Billy Meier wrote about that other planets many years after that and now. How did he know it?

  8. Puede ser posible que la órbita de este planeta por ser tan amplia, incluya la interacción catastrófica con nuestro sistema solar cada miles de años, y será por eso que hay leyendas tan aterradoras del supuesto planeta 9???

  9. Puede ser posible que la órbita de este planeta por ser tan amplia, incluya la interacción catastrófica con nuestro sistema solar cada miles de años, y será por eso que hay leyendas tan aterradoras del supuesto planeta 9 ???

  10. If there is a 9th planet, we’re is it..? One has to think its not needed in the gravitational set up of the solar system.

  11. From what I’ve read, the number of planets in our system all depends on who does the counting. It seems that a group, non of whom were planetary astronomers, took it upon themselves to define what a planet is. People who do actually study planets pretty much ignore them. I remember one actual planetary astronomer pointing out that if the earth were in Neptune’s orbit it would not meet the new definition of a planet any more than Pluto does. By his definition of a planet, as I recall, we have at least 120 in the solar system.

  12. Have you considered mapping the magnetic aignature of a planet orstar or nebula & uaung this uniqe force open a nagnetic tunnel as a way to iffset time& dustance barriors

  13. Thomas E Luce…. What drug are you on?!?!😂

  14. Space is fake. Gods dome the firmament, is the boundary for us. Wake up and read the Bible. Nasa lies!!!

  15. Santosh Kumar Yadav | December 13, 2020 at 6:08 am | Reply

    Hello 👋🤩

    NASA

    I am regular subscriber to NASA jpl.

    I have subscribed astrophysics news and information to NASA.
    I request to NASA that update my research paper and information.

    Sky..

  16. … ♿ …

  17. This information of the ninth member is as old as time. The first culture to even mention it were the Sumerians, let alone discussing the colors of all the other planets in our solar system and they were never given any credit. Because the time line and bunk evolutionary time line doesn’t accept that a culture dating back 6,000 years could have the means to be able to possess this information. But yet they make an exception for the Egyptians who are like a thousand years after the Sumerians lol..

  18. Even though the exact date of exactly how old Egypt really is, is still in debate today. The point is yes it’s fascinating, but they should just admit it already and stop releasing there knowledge of it like we already don’t know the truth. It exists and we’ve known it for over a decade now. Proof? The first app to come out and I forget what year it was, anyway, the first app to come out where you could hold up your phone and see every constellation in the sky and where each is. They had at one point what was called the “Planet Nine tracker”! You were able to follow it’s movement, however that was an oops somehow by NASA and the government, so within I believe it was something like 48 or 32 hours later it was blotted out and you could no longer see it. People when nuts trying to figure out what happened but they were told oh it was a mistake it really doesn’t exist sorry wrong planet. Yet here we are again in roughly the same location a decade later.

  19. All I can say is they are alot of my nerds,in this world just think all the time you spent studying the fake space alot normal guys and girls were having sex and by the way GOD created the heavens and the earth and everything around it by his hand B I B L E read it

  20. I wonder if the reader comments generated by the publications and info sharing websites that focus on evidence free, science denying and antifactual subject matter, such as those discussing literal bible interpretation, creationism, the flat earth delusion, alien contact pseudo history, etc etc are a mirror to those such as the examples here. Whereby, interspersed with the semi-literate, grammar adverse, phonetically spelled, off topic and nonsensical word salad comments written by the target audience members are evidence based and intelligible comments suggesting that the content is untrue,or delusional, plain silly or sidesplittingly and absurdly stupid, or similar.
    I don’t believe so. Nutbags need to keep up with the currently agreed reality and scientific endeavour to provide the fuel the flames of insanity.
    Scientific, rational and sane folk would probably not find similar inspiration in the psychotic ramblings of imagination.

  21. That said, it’s obvious a race of super salamanders rule the solar system from their base on the dark side of donald trump’s ass. Prove that wrong , or prove correct all that God is real and the bible is not just a work of fiction and then the discussion may progress.

  22. I don’t have the money to rent time on a major telescope, but if I did, I would scan the sky in the area where planet 9 is expected, blur out the image until you can’t see any particular object, then use a program to identify the brightest region, blow it out and bump up the contrast and from it extrapolate the origin of the brightness.

    Why? Because, logicallly, a near earth object of that size, and expected temperature range, should be reflecting a lot of light from our sun. Yes, a little will reflect back at us from its surface, but mostly on the objects around it. That much reflected light off of an object that size should produce a significant refraction on nearby objects. It would probably look like a faint halo once the image is sufficiently adjusted.

  23. Jacob Takes The Gun | December 18, 2020 at 6:21 am | Reply

    That planet is where the Anunnaki are.

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