Exoplanets & Exomoons

Is There an Earth-like Planet in the Distant Kuiper Belt?

By Keith Cowing
Status Report
August 30, 2023
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Is There an Earth-like Planet in the Distant Kuiper Belt?
Earth-like Planet in the Distant Kuiper Belt

The orbits of trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) can indicate the existence of an undiscovered planet in the outer solar system. Here, we used N-body computer simulations to investigate the effects of a hypothetical Kuiper Belt planet (KBP) on the orbital structure of TNOs in the distant Kuiper Belt beyond ~50 au.

We used observations to constrain model results, including the well-characterized Outer Solar System Origins Survey (OSSOS). We determined that an Earth-like planet (m ~ 1.5-3 Earth masses) located on a distant (semimajor axis a ~ 250-500 au, perihelion q ~ 200 au) and inclined (i ~ 30 deg) orbit can explain three fundamental properties of the distant Kuiper Belt: a prominent population of TNOs with orbits beyond Neptune’s gravitational influence (i.e., detached objects with q > 40 au), a significant population of high-i objects (i > 45 deg), and the existence of some extreme objects with peculiar orbits (e.g., Sedna).

Furthermore, the proposed KBP is compatible with the existence of identified Gyr-stable TNOs in the 2:1, 5:2, 3:1, 4:1, 5:1, and 6:1 Neptunian mean motion resonances. These stable populations are often neglected in other studies. We predict the existence of an Earth-like planet and several TNOs on peculiar orbits in the outer solar system, which can serve as observationally testable signatures of the putative planet’s perturbations.

Patryk Sofia Lykawka, Takashi Ito

Comments: This is the Accepted Manuscript version of an article accepted for publication in The Astronomical Journal. IOP Publishing Ltd is not responsible for any errors or omissions in this version of the manuscript or any version derived from it. This Accepted Manuscript is published under a CC BY licence. The Version of Record is available online at this https URL
Subjects: Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:2308.13765 [astro-ph.EP] (or arXiv:2308.13765v1 [astro-ph.EP] for this version)
Journal reference: AJ 166 118 (2023)
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Submission history
From: Patryk Sofia Lykawka
[v1] Sat, 26 Aug 2023 05:14:53 UTC (4,682 KB)

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻