Mysterious Planet Nine May Be a Captured ‘Rogue’ WorldPlanet Nine may be even…

Mysterious Planet Nine May Be a Captured ‘Rogue’ World

Planet Nine may be even more exotic than astronomers had thought.

The putative world, which some scientists think lurks unseen far beyond Pluto’s orbit, could be a former “rogue planet” that was captured by our solar system at some point in the past, a new study suggests.

“It is very plausible” that Planet Nine is a captured rogue — a world that cruises through space unattached to a star — lead author James Vesper, an undergraduate at New Mexico State University (NMSU), said Friday (Jan. 6) during a news conference at the 229th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Grapevine, Texas.

Vesper and his mentor, NMSU math and physical science professor Paul Mason, performed computer simulations of 156 encounters between our solar system and rogue planets of various sizes and trajectories.

Such encounters may not be terribly uncommon; some studies indicate that rogue planets outnumber “normal” worlds circling host stars throughout the Milky Way galaxy.

The simulations suggest that, in about 60 percent of the encounters, the incoming rogue planet would be flung out of the solar system. Most of the time, this would be a relatively simple “rogue in, rogue out” affair, Vesper said. But in about 10 percent of all cases, the rogue would take at least one of our solar system’s native planets with it as it departed, he added.

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