Planet Nine is the still-hypothetical large planet some astronomers speculate is currently orbiting in the far outer regions of the solar system. It’s not causing any trouble way out there, but what happens if it returns to the cozy confines of the orbits of its eight siblings? According to a new study, Planet Nine could destroy one of the larger planets and knock many of the others out into oblivion in a pinball-like dispersion. Does that sound like anybody else’s family reunion?
Dr. Dimitri Veras of the Department of Physics at the University of Warwick writes in a new study in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society about what could happen when our sun dies and becomes a white dwarf. You would think that would be the end of all of us and – if you’re talking about Earth, Mercury, Venus and Mars – you’re right. The dying sun would first expand to encompass those planets before collapsing into a white dwarf. The force of the explosive mass expansion would be large enough to push Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune far enough away to be safe from the aftermath.
Unless there’s a Planet Nine.
The existence of a distant massive planet could fundamentally change the fate of the solar system. Uranus and Neptune in particular may no longer be safe from the death throes of the Sun. The fate of the solar system would depend on the mass and orbital properties of Planet Nine, if it exists.
Dr. Veras developed a code that simulates the death of a star and its system of orbiting planets. Everything works fine (well, except for Earth and its little siblings) until he puts Planet Nine into the code. Instead of being pushed away by the dying sun, it gets pulled in and potentially could conflict (think pinballs) with the smaller planets Uranus and Neptune (it’s sounding more and more like a family reunion). Planet Nine could bounce Uranus and Neptune out into deep space.
That’s the less violent scenario. Another model has Planet Nine being blasted into rocky debris by the dying sun, showering pieces out into the solar system to crash into planets and even out into the Milky Way to cause problems with other stars and their planets.
If you’ve been paying close attention, the good news is that all of this is triggered by our sun dying, something that’s not expected to happen for seven billion years.
On the other hand, “New York, New York” has shown us that if something can happen here, it can happen anywhere. What if another star with a similar Planet Nine begins to die much sooner? Or already has? Will its rocky debris wreak havoc in our solar system?
Wouldn’t Rocky Debris be a great name for a UFC fighter?