NASA: Sorry, Pluto’s Replacement Isn’t Real

My very educated mother just served us nine pizzas xylophones.

This is not a picture of Planet X, because Planet X does not exist.
National Journal
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Alex Brown
March 7, 2014, 10:07 a.m.

“Plan­et X” sounds like something from a com­ic book or in­ter­galactic space op­era.

It’s ac­tu­ally a hy­po­thet­ic­al plan­et sci­ent­ists have used to ex­plain a vari­ety of as­tro­nom­ic­al events. Un­for­tu­nately, it doesn’t ex­ist.

NASA’s sky-sur­vey­ing space­ship has turned up all sorts of find­ings — but a gi­ant gas plan­et out past Nep­tune isn’t one of them, the agency an­nounced Fri­day.

Since the early 20th cen­tury, sci­ent­ists have used Plan­et X as the pos­sible an­swer to un­ex­plained events in our sol­ar sys­tem. Mass ex­tinc­tions, some said, may have been caused when this un­seen plan­et ran through a mass of comets and re­dir­ec­ted them to­ward Earth.

Oth­ers have used Plan­et X to ex­plain ir­reg­u­lar comet or­bits, as well as the or­bits of Ur­anus and Nep­tune. But NASA said Thursday it’s found noth­ing lar­ger than Sat­urn out to the dis­tance of 930 bil­lion miles. (Pluto — the ori­gin­al, then dis­coun­ted, Plan­et X — is on av­er­age only 3.7 bil­lion miles from the sun.)

NASA reached its con­clu­sions from scan­ning hun­dreds of mil­lions of ob­jects spot­ted by WISE — a space­craft that uses in­frared light to sur­vey the sky. The ship has found thou­sands of stars — in­clud­ing many un­known ones close to Earth, “hid­ing in plain sight” — as well as mil­lions of oth­er ob­ser­va­tions like galax­ies and as­ter­oids.

The ship was re­cently re­named NEO­WISE and has moved in­to as­ter­oid-hunter mode, help­ing us bet­ter track nearby fly­ing rocks and look­ing for a can­did­ate on which to land as­tro­nauts in the next dec­ade.


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