In Search of a Super-Earth: Astronomers Find Unidentified Object at the Edge of Our Solar System

The new object (labelled U) as seen by ALMA. Credit: R. Liseau, et al.
Astronomers pouring over data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have found a distant object in the direction of Alpha Centauri. The object may be a „super-Earth,“ but it is more likely to be a smaller ice world.


A New, and Super, Earth?

Over the course of the last few hours, the internet has been abuzz with science. That’s always a wonderful thing, but as is always the case, it’s important to keep your head about you—especially when talking about something as important as a new 9th planet in our solar system.

Recently, the ALMA telescope produced data which reveals that there is a distant object orbiting out in the icy reaches of our solar system. It’s off in the direction of Alpha Centauri, and based on its brightness at submillimeter wavelengths, astronomers are convinced that it is, in fact, part of our own neighborhood.

Remarkably, it is possible that this object is another planet, which means that we would once again have a 9 planet solar system.

Research groups from two different countries submitted pre-prints of research papers, which you can find here and here, which state this claim. Writing for Forbes, astronomer Brian Koberlein states that the object, according to the papers, “is that it is about 300 AU away and about 1.5 times the size of Earth, making it the first ‘super-Earth found in our solar system.”

For comparison, Pluto is just 49.3 AU away at its farthest. They called the discovery “Gna.”

If you aren’t aware, super-Earth is a planet that is more massive than our own (usually, about two or three times so) and which appears to be rocky, meaning that it isn’t close to super-massive gas giants like Uranus or Neptune.

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