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Space

Theoretical Evidence For a Ninth Planet Beyond Pluto May Be Premature (forbes.com) 176

An anonymous reader writes: Earlier today, the team of Pluto-killer Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin announced that they had found evidence of a ninth planet in our Solar System beyond the orbit of Pluto, larger and more massive than even Earth. However, a closer inspection of the work shows that they predict a few things that haven't been observed, including a population of Kuiper belt objects with large inclinations and retrograde orbits, long-period Kuiper belt objects with opposite ecliptic latitudes and longitudes, and infrared data showing the emission from such an outer world. There are many good reasons to be skeptical, and not conclude that there's a ninth planet without more (and better) evidence.
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Theoretical Evidence For a Ninth Planet Beyond Pluto May Be Premature

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  • Skeptical (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Skeptical1 ( 823232 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @09:17AM (#51343041)
    Of course there are good reasons to be skeptical. It's just the way to be. Nothing to do with this article.
    • But they seemed so sure of it.

      I even got chewed out in that last posting because someone had a hardon about the new defining characteristics of planets.

  • Hold on now.... Are you telling me mathematical calculations and theories that do not line up with what we observe doesn't count as evidence? I'm shocked. SHOCKED
  • by Kazymyr ( 190114 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @09:22AM (#51343061) Journal

    Oh well. Article will go unread.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 21, 2016 @09:45AM (#51343161)

      This is Slashdot so not reading TFA is expected.

      Using a Forbes link is just ensures things are as they should around here.

    • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @09:48AM (#51343167) Homepage

      I don't use AdBlock and yet Forbes thinks I'm using it. So I can't read it.

      But I can say, at least the infrared claim doesn't hold up. Wise ruled out Saturn-sized bodies out to 10k AU (based not on reflection but, due to the distances, more the internal heat they'd give off), but here we're talking about a body that's far smaller than Saturn and would have much less internal heat. The theoretical planet is 1/10th the mass of Saturn, and its IR from internal heat would be much less than that. And while one could argue that due to being closer its additional solar reflection would overcome that, I wouldn't be so sure. Neptune is 1,7x heavier than the theoretical planet yet still has a cross sectional area less than 18% that of Saturn. And you can't just scale down by that 1,7x to around 10% the cross sectional area of Saturn - it's probably much less because its colder (the reason why Neptune has a smaller radius than Uranus despite being heavier). And even more than what you'd get simply from cooling gases - at aphelion it could well be cold enough to chill liquid hydrogen out of its atmosphere into hydrogen seas. And that would make it dramatically smaller.

      In short, if it's even remotely near aphelion, WISE could well have missed it. And elliptical-orbiting bodies spend much more of their time near aphelion than perihelion.

      As for the required observations about KBOs, I don't know enough about the types of bodies and their orbits being referred to in the summary to know if we should already have seen them or not. But either way, we need *something* to explain the similar arguments of perihelion of the sednoids. It's hard enough just to explain how something with such a distant perihelion ended up in an elliptical orbit to begin with, let alone multiple such objects sharing similar arguments of perihelion.

      • by avandesande ( 143899 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @10:44AM (#51343459) Journal
        It says right in the article that Wise had a hard time detecting Neptune which is relatively close.
        • It says right in the article that Wise had a hard time detecting Neptune which is relatively close.

          However he had no trouble detecting Uranus from quite a distance.

          • Not sure if it was the IR emission or the methane ;-)
          • It says right in the article that Wise had a hard time detecting Neptune which is relatively close.

            However he had no trouble detecting Uranus from quite a distance.

            To be fair, he had a flashlight then.

            [ Dyslexics: Note that was with an "a". If you saw "e" - do not Google that at work. :-) ]

      • I don't use AdBlock and yet Forbes thinks I'm using it. So I can't read it.

        What the hell? You don't use Adblock and you clicked on a Forbes link to a StartsWithABang post? That's like going to an African mental institution for recovering whores and aiming to have a conversation followed by sex without a condom. Today's special: We will drop your IQ and you'll end up with an STD! Buy it now!

    • Well, Forbes doesn't like AdBlock and just last week ON SLASHDOT it was reported that they'd served malware to those who did turn it off...

      But what do the editors of /. care?

    • Change browser's User Agent to Google Bot. Page loads just fine with adblock

    • by jdavidb ( 449077 )
      My take is that these types of nag screens are supposed to be blocked by one of my adblock filters, so I reported the problem to adblock. I'm sure they will eventually find a way to block it so I can read articles there again, especially if lots of us report it! :)
    • by Crashmarik ( 635988 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @12:42PM (#51344345)

      Well Forbes is that great source of Astronomy news. I keep it right next to Sky and Telescope.

  • I'm Skeptical (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday January 21, 2016 @09:23AM (#51343065) Homepage Journal

    I'm Skeptical that it's ever going to be worth following a Forbes link.

    • Re:I'm Skeptical (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rob Lister ( 4174831 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @09:34AM (#51343105)
      I do not get why so many articles here are sourced at Forbes when almost everyone here can't see them.
      • Re:I'm Skeptical (Score:5, Insightful)

        by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @10:25AM (#51343337) Homepage Journal

        Maybe it's to force people to turn off their ad-blockers, so that when they come back to Slashdot they'll see ads... if so, well played DICE, well played...

        That said, even when I turn off my ad blocker, I can't read Forbes, so I never bother trying any more anyway.

        • Why would Slashdot need you to turn off the ad-blocker when it gives you that little check box on the front page to turn off ads yourself?
          • Oddly enough, I have had to check that box repeatedly over the past few months. I use the latest version of Chrome.

            Another oddity: APB still reports that it is filtering out some ads on Slashdot. Searching Google did not help me figure out how to view the logs for APB, so I can't report what is being filtered.

            • Yeah, it does turn itself back on periodically. And there is still the sponsored content videos at the bottom of the page as well as partner videos mixed into the headlines. It really just turns off the advertising that existed at the time they put it in which is the big block of ads at the right of the page and a banner at the top.

              They likely are also still tracking what content you visit.
              • They likely are also still tracking what content you visit.

                Thanks for the info. How creepy of them! Was this another Dice innovation? I've been away from Slashdot for a half score years.

                Why don't they remove the YRO section of Slashdot while they are at it?

          • Why would Slashdot need you to turn off the ad-blocker when it gives you that little check box on the front page to turn off ads yourself?

            Because the little check box doesn't work. It only turns off some of the ads, and not all of them. It also doesn't stop the trackers, just [some of] the ads. AdBlock turns off all of the ads, and the trackers too.

      • Re:I'm Skeptical (Score:5, Interesting)

        by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @12:16PM (#51344155)

        I do not get why so many articles here are sourced at Forbes when almost everyone here can't see them.

        They are all submitted and posted by one person. Look at starts with a bang's profile. One single post on slashdot, but some 300 story submission attempts of which all are to his personal blog on Forbes, and of which a sadly high number is being accepted.

        • To be fair Starts With a Bang was one of the best astronomy blogs on the internet when Nathan effectively ran it for free. It is unfortunate that having moved into a more commercial setting he happens to be publishing it on Forbes. That is one good reason why his articles are featured on this site.

          However a significant number of readers, myself included, do not like sharing data with Forbes advertising partners and can no longer read his good quality journalism. YMMV.

          • To be fair Starts With a Bang was one of the best astronomy blogs on the internet when Nathan effectively ran it for free.

            There's nothing to be fair, the vast majority of his articles are clickbait and borderline pseudo-science existential crap debunked by several theories which are conveniently ignored when he tries to prove sometimes no point at all.

            Occasionally he posts something interesting and relevant.

            In the past he also occasionally posted on slashdot. But the flavour wore off when he posted EVERY SINGLE ONE OF HIS BLOGS on here. That's no longer doing astronomy blogs a good service, that's using Slashdot as a personal

    • I don't remember if it was Forbes, but yesterday there was a link to the 25 happiest companies. The first one opened with title, a sentence of text, a huge picture, and plenty of space for ads I presume... Fuck that, I'm not clicking and loading a new damn page 25 times to read a bullet list. Sounds like something Forbes would do.

  • What would "theoretical evidence" actually be. Evidence which is not like real evidence because it is theoretical. Evidence for a particular theory? That seems plausible but if so, it should be stated as "theory evidence".

    • Just what I came to say. And how would it be premature? It's just evidence.

    • Perhaps it would just be better if no longer give a distinction to words planet and theory and instead just treat them as exact synonyms to body and hypothesis.

      Back in third grade when we learned the scientific method I don't remember a "theory" step in there anywhere. If anything calling something a theory only serves to create the illusion of factuality which is a rather ironic thing to do to the product of skepticism and rational inquiry. A still valid hypothesis should be used as the best tool we have s
  • I blame the media (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @09:49AM (#51343177)

    Every time some scientist comes out with even the most untested hypothesis, the media starts touting it as some great new discovery. The headlines were "New Planet Found!" when there should have been no headlines at all (not until it can be verified by many other astronomers).

    • I didn't see those headlines. I saw scientists think that there may be a potential 9th planet.

      I suspect it's as much that readers lack reading comprehension and gloss right over words like "may" and "potential" as that the headlines are bad.
      • It's normal. I have ample evidence that most humans have serious problems in correctly interpreting ideas expressed in a given text. And add to this the fact that they also have difficulty thinking outside of extremes (binary thinking).
        • It is a shame because it leads to opinions like that this should not have been reported on. I believe a team of credible experts in this area having reached this hypothesis and feeling it is a likely enough possibility that they are looking for funding to spend their time investigating it for the next few months or years is interesting news to many people who wouldn't be reading or have access to the actual peer reviewed articles. This includes many with the means to fund taking such research further.

          Provid
    • I blame startswithabang. After all what could get more clicks than posting some article about being sceptical about something that was in the media only a little while earlier.

    • First the media garners eyeballs and clickballs by saying "NEW PLANET FOUND!", then a day later they garner even more eyeballs and clickballs by saying "NEW PLANET THEORY DEBUNKED!". Keeps the headlines percolating.
  • No no no (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    This post, and the post yesterday covering the Caltech announcement, are great examples of what's wrong with science reporting these days. The story yesterday should have been titled "Caltech Researchers Find Evidence That Might Indicate A Ninth Planet"; it isn't proven, and while the researchers like their model, even they don't claim it's a done deal. However it makes better headlines to make it seem more certain, so yesterday's slashdot headline actually said "Caltech Astronomers Say a Ninth Planet Lurks

    • by jbengt ( 874751 )

      It's a fucking theory. It hasn't been proven

      Not even. It's (that is, the proposed "planet" is) a fucking hypothesis. It hasn't been found.

  • ridiculous (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ken D ( 100098 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @10:17AM (#51343297)

    The 'blogger' complains that the authors predict things that have not yet been observed, but that is exactly the point. A proposal that only explained things that are known is awfully convenient and cannot be confirmed or disproven by new observations.

  • Ethan's a pretty good guy and friends of friends of mine. I have been following their circles has been entertaining over the years. Every one of them has their points and almost all of them should be taken into consideration when "finding" a new planet.

    There is a large community of astrophysicists who want Pluto reclassified as a planet. Mike Brown being the Pluto killer, finding a new planet only adds to the frustration.

    Yet we know there to be a difference between sensational findings and actual findings

  • by yodleboy ( 982200 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @10:40AM (#51343425)
    As i understood it, the primary reason for classifying Pluto as a "dwarf planet" was size. If there were 2000 similar sized bodies in the Kuiper Belt, then they felt obligated to say "there are 2009 planets in the solar system". Of course this was decision was made BEFORE New Horizons, so if Pluto was just another smallish hunk of ice and rock then I guess it makes some sense (still think it was silly). Now, we know that Pluto is a hell of a lot more than that, and is a more active planet than expected. It's time to bring it back as #9 and maybe when we get to the Kuiper Belt to actually get a look, we can rethink the terminology...
    • As i understood it, the primary reason for classifying Pluto as a "dwarf planet" was size.

      Actually no, the size criterion was whether it's big enough to be round. Pluto and Ceres, and a number of TNOs all qualify. However, Pluto is gravitationally dominated by Neptune, in a 3:2 orbital resonance. The rule is, if some other planet's gravity makes you its bitch, you don't get to be a planet.

      For a more precise definition of what it means to be a planet, including several criteria for what "clearing the neighborhood" means, you can consult this arXiv paper [arxiv.org][pdf]. Interestingly, it suggests that the s

    • For me, any object large enough to be round, which orbits a star and does not orbit another planet can be considered a planet. I do not understand why astronomers are so fond of complicating the idea.
      • Only complementing what I wrote, I forgot to add that the object to be considered a planet should be large enough for its own gravity causes it to go into hydrostatic equilibrium (ie become round)
  • It's just a large frozen Mass relay. Or better yet maybe a sleeping reaper!

  • It appears as though StartsWithABang is posting articles anonymously now. How quaint.

    We still know it's you oh click-whoring leech.

  • I begin to wonder if this science guy for Forbes is a douche bag. Seriously read the Cal Tech article "Caltech Researchers Find Evidence of a Real Ninth Planet" http://www.caltech.edu/news/ca... [caltech.edu]

    Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown even state: "Now we can go and find this planet..."

    So yes the researches are actually skeptical of their own work, we don't need some douche bag trying to make themselves look important.
  • I refuse to turn off AdBlocker for Forbes.
  • This is the kind of tripe that's sinking /.
    Yesterday, journos spin a "hey maybe there's something interesting here" announcement into an "OMG another planet" gush...
    Today, we are supposed to click though to the dreadful Forbes site to find out...that more data is required....
    Fuck me, who'd have thought it! Of course, the scientific method is so passé these days.

    It reminds me of the tabloid that published a story (with picture) about the "amazing discovery of a WW2 bomber found on the Moon"
    Did the ensu

  • Looking at a scale depiction of our solar system and possible orbits, if true, it is only really true for very large definitions of "solar system". It apparently ranges from 400AU to 1100AU on a 15,000 year period. To be blunt, even at its closest, it's way fscking out there... It is interesting none the less I suppose.

    • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

      The solar system extends to the end of the Oort Cloud which is about 100,000 AU away from the Sun. That's much, much farther than this object.

      If this object is as big as they think it is (assuming it exists, of course) then it could have observable effects on objects in the Oort Cloud and the Kupier Belt, which is very important to the solar system.

      More to the point, it makes certain planetary formation models make a lot more sense which is certainly worth considering this to be a part of the Solar System,

  • Soo... "non-evidence evidence"?

"Truth never comes into the world but like a bastard, to the ignominy of him that brought her birth." -- Milton

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