Mystery of Planet Nine: Hubble Data Shows Exoplanet Possible



A planet spotted 336 light-years from Earth could help scientists unravel the mystery surrounding a supposed large “Planet Nine” lurking in the outskirts of our solar system, a new study suggests.

With the help of data from the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have been able to measure the motion of a massive Jupiter-like planet orbiting very far away from its host stars and visible debris disk.

Though the search for a Planet Nine continues, this discovery of the exoplanet — known as HD 106906 b — is evidence that such oddball orbits are possible, a news release from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center reported.

“This system draws a potentially unique comparison with our solar system,” the author of the study, which appeared in The Astronomical Journal, Meiji Nguyen of the University of California, Berkeley, said in a statement to the space flight center.

“It’s very widely separated from its host stars on an eccentric and highly misaligned orbit, just like the prediction for Planet Nine. This begs the question of how these planets formed and evolved to end up in their current configuration.”

The system where this gas giant resides is 15 million years old, the space flight center report noted, suggesting that Planet Nine — if it exists — could have formed very early on in the evolution of our 4.6-billion-year-old solar system.

“It’s as if we have a time machine for our own planetary 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,” team member Paul Kalas said in a statement to the space flight center.

Scientists using NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope plan to get data on the exoplanet to understand it in greater detail, the space flight center reported.

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