Pluto hasn’t been an honest-to-God “planet” going on 15 years now, having been downgraded to a measly “dwarf planet” classification in 2006 by the International Astronomical Union. By our best judgments, a decade-and-a-half is more than enough time to get used to our solar system family’s smaller size, introduce children to a revised, 8-character mnemonic device, and thoroughly exhaust ourselves of the “I’m old enough to remember when Pluto was a planet” memes.
And yet, as recent oceanic developments have shown us, comfort and the appearance of stability means absolutely diddly-squat to scientists: Once again, it seems our solar system might be soon revised to include a mysterious, as-of-yet proven “Planet 9.” So, who do we have to thank for this astronomical whiplash?
...The same goddamn guy who stole Pluto from us in the first place.
An agent of chaos named Michael Brown, the man NBC News describes as the astronomer who “led the campaign that controversially demoted Pluto” in 2006, recently co-authored a new research paper claiming a mysterious, gigantic ninth planet may very well exist at the fringes of our solar system. According to NBC, the study set to be published in the Astronomical Journal reexamines evidence Brown and colleagues first put forth in 2016 pointing towards Planet 9 as the explanation behind “anomalies” in the outer solar system that include regions of “icy asteroids and cometary cores” known as Kuiper Belt objects.
Critics argue that the data presented could still be considered statistical anomalies as opposed to empirical evidence indicated a ninth planet’s existence, while Brown’s team alleges there is 0.4 percent chance the Kuiper Belt cluster isn’t something more than a cosmic fluke. The newest evidence suggests Planet 9 exists in an orbit between 380 and 400 times the distance of Earth to the sun, and is probably a gas giant akin to Neptune that’s roughly six times’ our planet’s mass.
Of course, more research is needed before astronomers can conclusive prove a new Planet 9's existence, but even if that day does come, our excitement will no doubt be tempered by the knowledge that Michael Brown already robbed us of one planet. There’s no reason to think he wouldn’t do the same damn thing again...
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