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    Mystery planet thought to exist in the Solar system

    Thursday, October 17, 2019 Last Updated 2019-10-17T16:13:30Z
    In 1984, research suggested that, over the past 250 million years, mass extinctions had happened on Earth every 26 million years. But what could cause such periodic extinctions?

    A hypothetical red dwarf star, known as Nemesis, was proposed to orbit the Sun at a great distance. Every 26 million years, as it passed through its closest approach to the Sun, the star would scatter a deluge of comets towards the inner Solar system. The result? One or more of those comets would collide with Earth, triggering a mass extinction.

    But over the years the evidence waned, and no companion star was found. Nemesis passed into history.

    At the turn of the millennium, a new “Planet X” was proposed - nicknamed Tyche. Where Nemesis was the bringer of death, Tyche’s influence was more subtle, resulting in a slight increase in the number of inbound comets from certain regions of the sky, and explaining observed peculiarities in the distribution of those comets.

    Once again, observations soon weakened the case for Tyche. The final nail came with NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), which looked at the entire sky at infrared wavelengths. If Tyche existed, WISE would almost certainly have found it.

    Still, the idea of an unseen planet beyond Neptune’s orbit rears its head every few years. In 2008 an unseen, distant Earth-mass planet was proposed to explain the distribution of small, icy bodies beyond Neptune.

    Other researchers pointed out that planet-mass objects could have formed along with the Solar system’s outer planets, before being scattered outward, but never ejected.

    All this brings us to Planet X’s latest incarnation - known as “Planet Nine”.


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