Dr. Michael Brown, author of How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming, recently declared the days when you could easily discover big bright objects in the Kuiper Belt are over, though there might be dark ones yet to be found. Now Universe Today says European astronomers are predicting at least two more large planets in the solar system:
In two new paper published this week, scientists at the Complutense University of Madrid and the University of Cambridge noted that the most accepted theory of trans-Neptunian objects is that they should orbit at a distance of about 150 AU, be in an orbital plane – or inclination – similar to the planets in our Solar System, and they should be randomly distributed.
But that differs from what is actually observed. What astronomers see are groupings of objects with widely disperse distances (between 150 AU and 525 AU) and orbital inclinations that vary between 0 to 20 degrees.
“This excess of objects with unexpected orbital parameters makes us believe that some invisible forces are altering the distribution of the orbital elements of the ETNO [extreme trans-Neptunian objects],” said Carlos de la Fuente Marcos, scientist at UCM and co-author of the study, “and we consider that the most probable explanation is that other unknown planets exist beyond Neptune and Pluto.”
Besides the main point of the story, what caught my eye was Universe Today’s reference to Pluto as a planet. Had I missed Pluto officially being welcomed back into the planetary fold? No, not if the Wikipedia is current. Universe Today may simply follow an iconoclastic style-sheet. If so, long may it wave!
It’s not clear to me that they’re implying that Pluto is a planet: I don’t read “other unknown planets … beyond Neptune and Pluto” as saying that Pluto is a planet.