'Mysterious mass' may lurk in the outer reaches of our solar system

TUCSON, Ariz. - Described as "unknown and unseen," a "planetary object," with a mass somewhere in the middle of Mars and Earth, could be calling the outer reaches of our solar system home, according to new research from the University of Arizona.  

According to a release from the university, the yet-to-be-discovered "object" would be "different from and much closer than" the so-called Planet 9 that astronomers have been searching for.

As the authors of the study and paper, which is expected to be published in the Astronomical Journal, Kat Volk and Renu Malhotra of U of A's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory say they found the possible planetary mass after observing the orbital tilts of Kuiper Belt objects, or KBOs, which reside in the outer solar system.

"Their average plane, Volk and Malhotra discovered, is tilted away from the invariable plane by about eight degrees," a release read. "In other words, something unknown is warping the average orbital plane of the outer solar system."

Malhotra says there is no more than a 1 to 2 percent chance the find is a "statistical fluke" -- meaning the data is "most likely a real signal," a release said. The data, however, does not rule out the possibility of more than one planetary mass object causing the warp. 

Malhotra and Volk, say the reason the mass may not have been found yet is because researchers and astronomers haven't searched the "entire sky" for distant objects. 

"The most likely place a planetary mass object could be hiding would be in the galactic plane," a release read, "an area so densely packed with stars that solar system surveys tend to avoid it. 

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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