The field of astronomy is one that is extremely vulnerable to hype and over-dramaticism; very few examples can compare to the hype surrounding the current fascination with new planetary bodies within our own solar system. Our solar system is surrounded by clouds of gas and rocks, dotted with the occasional plutonid dwarf planet. While these small planet are truly deserving of our interest and focus as they represent a time in the solar system that we cannot understand by looking at our much closer neighbors, there has recently been a rush of hypotheses looking into the idea of a larger planet resting on the outskirts of our home system.
The concept of a large unknown planet is not a new one, when the race to find planet x (or Pluto as it became known) stated off they weren’t looking for a small desolate ice world, they were looking for a Neptune-sized object that would account for the orbital and gravitational unknowns that had been detected. When the small, almost gravitationally insignificant Pluto was found, it did not quench the craving for new planets. Slowly more and more have been found but they do not match the size nor the fervor that they was desired.
In comes Tyche, the newest hypothesized planet with all the hype that the possibility of a large planet can muster. With all of the new technology going up in orbit, we are beginning to find the wonders of the cosmos from black-holes larger than we could have imagined to galaxies that have been consumed by our own voracious galaxy. One of the more startling discoveries has been the shear number of stars outside our own solar system, bringing hope that there may yet be another Earth sitting around another star that is not all that different than our own. Also there has been a host of information on our own solar system including a deeper glance into the outer reaches of our nest.
So what is it about this possible planet that has space scientists weary, well number one it is using cloudy data and is looking for a precision that simply does not exist. Second, it is filling a role that may have already been filled. The reason scientists are looking for a larger outer system interaction is without it comets have no reason to learn their comfy orbits and plunge into the inner solar system. A large planet like Tyche would disrupt orbits and send a cascade of comets our way. Unfortunately for Tyche this could also be due to interactions with stars or maybe even the subject of the next Stars Above Mines, the ever tempting allure of Nemesis.
May The Stars Shine Brightly In Your Skies