What on Earth is Planet 9?

Tim Dowling learns about the Planet 9 theory from one of its originators Professor Konstantin Batygin. The theory is that way beyond Neptune and Pluto, on the outer reaches of the Solar System a 9th planet, 5 times the mass of Earth is orbiting the Sun once every 10,000 years. We also hear from Professor Samantha Lawler, who is not as convinced by the evidence for the existence of Planet 9.

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Tim Dowling  0:17  

Welcome to insult my intelligence. Today the topic is Planet Nine. Now the way we select our topics is this Johnnie suggests ideas until he finds an area where my ignorance is boundless. This doesn't usually take very long. He says the thing I say, What are you talking about? And we're off. But when he said, Do you know anything about Planet Nine? I'm afraid I said, Yeah, Pluto is Planet Nine. In an episode of QI, this would have been the moment when that giant klaxon goes off. Because, as everybody knows, Pluto isn't the ninth planet anymore. It got downgraded some time ago. Pluto is the ex Planet Nine. Despite no longer being a planet, Pluto could still be described as a planetary prediction success story. Given the number of planets astronomers have predicted that never materialised. As our first guest, the originator of the current Planet Nine theory, Konstantin Batygin explained,

Konstantin Batygin  1:12  

yeah, I think it might be something like the 247 one past you know, past 1846. The first kind of credit must be given to Leverier and Adams for mathematically predicting the existence of the planet Neptune and then actually succeeding.

Tim Dowling  1:33  

In the early 19th century, astronomers realised an unexplained force was perturbing the orbit of Uranus, and calculated that it must be another unknown planet. In 1846, Neptune was discovered right where its predictors said it would be. In the early 20th century, the astronomer Percival Lowell made similar predictions based on the idea that Neptune alone couldn't account for the perturbations to Uranus, launching a search for what he called Planet X, a search that eventually led to the discovery of Pluto. However, there was a problem. Lowell had predicted something about seven times the mass of Earth, Pluto was actually 1/500 the mass of Earth. It wasn't until 1992 that we found out there was no Planet X, the calculations that gave rise to the prediction were based on a mistake. Everyone had the massive Neptune wrong. As Konstantin Batygin puts it.

Konstantin Batygin  2:29  

You know that planet, that gravitational pull that Lowell and company were chasing down, was really there, the anomaly was there, just that the planet was effectively contained inside of Neptune. When Pluto was discovered, it was immediately clear that this thing is kind of small. A radius seven Earth mass objects you should have been able to resolve. And instead, they kind of looked at it and said, Well, maybe it's one Earth mass. So Pluto's mass got resolved root, sort of downgraded to one. And then if you make a plot of sort of how Pluto the estimate of Pluto's math evolved since 1930, it just kind of kept going down and down and down. And this is because it's difficult to know how massive something is just by looking at it, you need to detect the satellite and resolve the motion of a satellite around a planet that came in 1978 when they're like, oh, shoot, no, Pluto's tiny.

Tim Dowling  3:30  

So there was no way Pluto had enough mass to account for the perturbations to Uranus, which in any case, were more than accounted for by the new correct mass of Neptune. And if you're wondering how I can keep saying the phrase perturbations of Uranus with a straight face, it's just practice. This is like my seventh go with this voiceover. But if Pluto isn't the planet, what is it? Here's professor of astronomy at the University of Regina, Samantha Lawler explaining.

Samantha Lawler  3:58  

So Pluto is the very first Kuiper Belt object that was discovered, right? So, so the Kuiper Belt. It's kind of like the asteroid belt, but beyond the orbit of Neptune, right? So there's all of these small icy bodies that are orbiting around, and Pluto was the very first one to be discovered. And it's one of the largest ones. But it's not the largest one. So Professor Mike Brown at Caltech discovered Eris in 2005, I think, and that sort of set off this this crisis of, Oh, no, this one's bigger than Pluto. Should this one also be a planet? Or should Pluto really not be a planet because at that point, we knew about hundreds of Kuiper Belt objects that are on similar orbits to Pluto, but aren't quite as big as Pluto. Right. So, so at the time, I was actually taking a class from Mike Brown at Caltech. I was an undergrad there. So it was pretty neat to see this all All play out in kind of real time. And then the the International Astronomical Union sat down and actually wrote a definition for what is a planet and Pluto got kicked out and got demoted. Right. And so now it's what's called a dwarf planet. it's large enough to pull itself into a round shape, but it's not large enough to clear its orbit of similarly sized objects.

Tim Dowling  5:24  

So what does this have to do with today's topic, Planet Nine? Well, two astrophysicists, Mike Brown and Konstatin Batygin of Caltech, noticed that a small group of these very distant Kuiper Belt Objects were all clustered together in the night sky. These objects are so far past Neptune, that they escaped its gravitational influence. But something big had to be shepherding these planets into these clustered orbits. Their theory was that a ninth planet one about five times the size of Earth, which so far, nobody has seen, because it's really far away, was responsible. So if Pluto is now the ex Planet Nine, Planet Nine, maybe the new Planet X and even though we can't see it, Konstantin Batygin, is now 99.8% certain that it's out there. Here he is, explaining more

Konstantin Batygin  6:14  

Of course the notion that the solar system can host another planet is is not a new one, as we just discussed. But you know, this particular this particular formulation of the Planet Nine hypothesis really traces its origins, maybe by 2015 2014 or so. And my partner in crime on this, Mike Brown and I were inspired by, by work that some other astronomers had done Chad Trujillo and Scott Shepard, what they had done is they had discovered a second object in the solar system, which was, which had an orbit and didn't interact with Neptune. See, beyond Neptune, there's this field of debris. And if you kind of ask all this field of debris that we conventionally call the Kuiper Belt, How are you doing?  The answer will be you were doing not so great, because we're being kicked around by Neptune every orbit, right, and the orbits are kind of chaotically diffusing and being tossed around. Now, a few of the objects that if you go distant enough, actually aren't part of this, you know, chaotic group. The first of these, Sedna was discovered, in fact, by Mike back in 2003. And then the second bonafide detached object, which was nicknamed Joe Biden, was attached that was discovered back in 2013, or 14.

Tim Dowling  7:49  

It was actually discovered in 2012. And by the way, it's not nicknamed Joe Biden, because it's a detached object. It's just that it's real name is 2012, VP, 113. And Joe Biden was the VP in 2012.

Konstantin Batygin  8:02  

We were inspired by their work because their work had pointed out that the argument of perihelion, which is a strange thing, the argument of perihelion of is an angle made by an orbit between the point where it crosses the plane of the earth, and the closest approach to the sun.

Tim Dowling  8:24  

When he said this, I nodded along, but I didn't know what the argument of perihelion meant, after googling it, I still don't really understand. But it's basically the angle of a celestial body, in this case, these Kuiper Belt Objects, when they cross the plane of the sun at their closest point. Anyway, this number is used by Brown and Batygin, to show the similarities in the orbits of these extreme KBOs.

Konstantin Batygin  8:46  

It's not just this obscure, you know, representation of some angle, it's just a consequence of the fact that you're looking at the orbits are all pointing in the same direction, they're all kind of are tilted into the same plane, even back then, we just intuitively recognise that this this pattern of clustering could not be could not apply uniformly to the stable and unstable population of the Kuiper Belt Objects, the ones that are being punched around by Neptune just cannot possibly exhibit this, this pattern, even though back then the two objects that were in this unstable category kind of looked like they fit. And indeed, this is, after running the mathematical models we've made effectively this not I wouldn't call it a prediction, but the statement on which the whole thing hinges, which is that as more objects are collected, the dynamically stable, the things that are not being kicked around by Neptune very strongly will continue to exhibit on average clustering, right?

Tim Dowling  9:54  

So these are far away Kuiper Belt Objects, right? Which is how I guess you've measured these things in astronomical units, which is the distance between the Sun and the Earth?

Konstantin Batygin  10:05  

That's right. Yeah. So the way to think about it is these are things that because that's, that's not a particularly intuitive, you know, that's not an intuitive unit of length, but the orbital period is a isn't more intuitive one. So it takes these things more than 4000 years to go around the sun. Right? That's where that's where the boundary for everything we are talking about starts. Right. If you're orbiting beyond that critical orbital period, then you're part of the Planet Nine club, potentially.

Tim Dowling  10:40  

Your hypothesis was that the most likely mathematical explanation for their clustering was there was a big planet that we couldn't see out there. influencing their orbit. Right, right.

Konstantin Batygin  10:53  

I mean, really all, I want to be like, you know, completely kind of honest about this, all that I can do with the calculations that that we run is predict an orbit and a mass of, of something. So I can't tell you if it's a five Earth mass burrito, maybe it's a five Earth mass, I don't know, beer glass, I don't know. Like, it could be anything to me, as long as it's five Earth masses, it can really be anything. But then you come to the question of what things come in fibres mass, you know, what things get in the universe get stamped out at five Earth masses, and the typical thing is planet. So that's kind of where the planet assumption comes from, we think Planet Nine is the most reasonable of the explanation. But really what we're seeing it's just some one way gravitational sign towards some external potential, some external gravitational force, that's confining these distant Kuiper Belt Objects.

Tim Dowling  11:59  

And its orbit is a bit strange. It's on a different plane in the near the planets that we can see. And it's, well you explain?

Konstantin Batygin  12:09  

Yeah, so it's, it's not, it's completely unlike what you would, you know, imagine the solar system to be like in sort of a mobile that you hang up over kids, you know, crib. Yeah, this thing, this orbit is, first of all, it's appreciably eccentric, and out of the out of round by about 30/40%, something like that. It is tilted by about 20 degrees with respect to the plane of the solar system. And it's really far away. I mean, Planet Nine takes something like 10,000 years to go around the sun. Now, all of these things immediately point to the fact that it's very unlikely that it formed in place, it's probably a consequence of formation. Really, a formation of Uranus and Neptune because Uranus and Neptune were possibly assembled from sort of five Earth mass building blocks, and that accretion process is never 100% efficient, you end up scattering some of these building blocks out of the solar system. Largely because Jupiter and Saturn are so massive. And early in the solar system, there exists a process by which some of these objects that are being scattered out can get trapped at large orbital periods. So we think one plausible hypothesis for how Planet Nine got their acquired its strange orbit is that it was another growing ice giant in the in the primordial solar system, that sort of, you know, got evicted from the party, if you will. And, and then there's just kind of lurking around.

Tim Dowling  13:57  

So the 99.8% probability that puttygen and brown often cite, where does this come from?

Konstantin Batygin  14:04  

It comes from a calculation of how certain are we that the clustering that we see in the night sky, right, this clustering of distant orbits that we see is actually there. And there's a 0.2% chance given the data set as of 2019 that this is all this is all, you know, a fluke and pipe dream. So you know, that's not that's not a high probability, obviously, but it is nevertheless, the material

Tim Dowling  14:32  

In a minute will talk to Samantha Lawler, Professor of astronomy at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, about why she is sceptical about Planet 9's existence.

So Planet Nine, what is it to alleged existence meant to account for?

Samantha Lawler  14:53  

Yeah, so, so the most so the most the very most distant Kuiper Belt Objects are really hard to find, right? So we are extremely biassed toward finding the very closest Kuiper Belt Objects. So they don't make their own light, right? They're not like stars. So we see them in reflected light, which means light from the sun has to go all the way out to the Kuiper Belt object and reflect all the way back to Earth, which is almost the same distance as the sun from, from these very distant objects, right. So the brightness drops off as one over distance to the fourth power, right? So as you go further away, if you have a Kuiper Belt object, that's 10 times farther away, it's gonna be 10,000 times fainter than than one, that's 10 times closer, right? So so you're very biassed toward finding the closest one. So we've only found a handful of really distant ones. And the first few that were discovered, we're all kind of clustered in the same direction, right, they're all kind of pointed toward the same part of the solar system. And they're closest, they're on very eccentric orbits, which means, you know, long, long squished orbits, right. So they have one part of their orbit is very close to the sun, and one part of their orbit is very far away from the sun. And we can only see them when they're at their closest point. And these first few that were discovered, were all pointed in the same direction, right, they had their most distant, distant, the distant part of their orbits was the farthest sorry, was all on the same side of the solar system. And, and so that's where the Planet Nine theory came in, is that if you have a really distant, very large planet out there, it could be sort of confining all of these really distant orbits to be off on the same side of the solar system. So there's that theory came from,

Tim Dowling  16:50  

tugging them in that direction basically.

Samantha Lawler  16:51  

Yeah, it sort of gives them a gravitational kick at the right time in its orbit to keep them all all over there. Right. It's just it's Yeah, it's a very complicated dynamical process, like, Um, so yeah, Mike Brown and Constantine Batygin are very good at orbital dynamics. So it's a really good theory.

Tim Dowling  17:11  

So Mike Brown, who you studied with?

Samantha Lawler  17:13  


Tim Dowling  17:13  

He's one of the two guys who came who came up with this.

Samantha Lawler  17:17  

Yeah. Yeah.

Tim Dowling  17:18  

What is it about your old mentors theory that you think doesn't work?

Samantha Lawler  17:26  

Yeah. So the part that's, that's tricky is, so these are really hard to find, right? Which means that you're, you're very, you're very biassed toward finding them only where you look on the sky, right? And so these very first ones that were discovered, we didn't know if they were all kind of discovered in the same part of the sky, right? Because their most distant part, the distant parts of their orbits are all pointed in the same direction. That means that the closest parts of their orbit are kind of in the same direction on the sky. So does that mean that all of those are actually on that side of the solar system? Or does that mean that we didn't look in the other direction, right? Astronomers, and I think most scientists, you don't like reporting like, Oh, yeah, I looked at all of this part of the sky, and I didn't find what I was looking for. Like that's, that's not not something that you really report. Like, there's databases of discovered Kuiper Belt Objects. But there's no databases of where you look that didn't find anything. But that's actually really important information, right. So that's something that we tried to be very careful about in the outer Solar Systems origin survey, which I was part of, where we really carefully kept track of exactly where we looked on the sky and reported all of that information, so that other people can take our discoveries and, and understand what biases went into those discoveries, right. So as more and more of these very distant Kuiper Belt Objects have been discovered, they're not quite as strongly clustered anymore. There's a little bit more spread in there clustering. And there's a couple that are in the opposite direction now. And, and so all of these discoveries are made with ground based telescopes, which means that we're subject to weather, right? So we just saw, I'm part of another collaboration where we're trying to discover more distant Kuiper Belt Objects, right? And we just tried to look in January, right? In January is the worst weather. So that means that the Kuiper Belt objects that are easiest to find in January, we can't find them because the weather is always bad in January, right? So that's a bias right? We're not going to find Kuiper Bell Objects in that direction just because of the weather.

Tim Dowling  20:05  

You're talking about. Or you were just talking about the Outer Solar System Origin Survey. What exactly did you because this is like a 40 astronomer thing, isn't it? And and you you set out to just look for stuff. I mean, Kuiper Belt Objects.

Samantha Lawler  20:21  

Yeah, yeah, so just tried to find as many Kuiper Belt Objects as possible and, and track them all carefully. And, and understand all of our biases, right. So we, we managed to discover more than 800 new ones, which is a lot for how many are known, right? And so so you have to keep following the Kuiper Belt Objects for a number of years in order to get good measurements of their orbits. And so we very carefully did that. We weren't biassed toward finding certain types of orbits. And so you're able to take our discoveries and say, Okay, if the orbital distribution of the Kuiper Belt looked like this, what would you have discovered, and we have some software you can use to, to, to test different models, and compare it with our discoveries, right. So it's a way of taking out the biases in the survey, which other surveys had not done before. Now, other surveys have done it too. And so there's other discoveries from the Dark Energy Survey, they also had a lot of Kuiper Belt Objects they discovered, and they also tried to take this or the biases out of their survey, they also did not see any evidence for clustering.

Tim Dowling  21:46  

And these have in your in your survey, did you discover Extreme Kuiper Belt objects or there's another sort of high perihelion?

Samantha Lawler  21:55  

Yeah, so high? Yeah. So high perihelion being the closest point in the orbit to the sun, these are the ones that never get very close to the sun, the ones that are supposed to be clustered, right. So, yeah, so so we discovered four of them, right? So that doesn't sound like very many. But the original, the original theory came from only six, right, six Kuiper Belt Objects that were clustered so. So we discovered four more the, and there's no evidence for clustering in those four, right? So you might say, Okay, well, that's not very many. So the Dark Energy Survey also discovered another four. And there was also no evidence for clustering in those four. And then there was recently a paper that came out led by Kevin Napier at University of Michigan, he's a PhD student there and, and they took, his team took our survey, the dark energy survey, and a survey by Scott Shepard and Chad Trujillo and, and put them all together to try to take the biases out of all those surveys and add together all of the discoveries, and they also found no evidence for clustering.

Tim Dowling  23:08  

This study that came from Kevin Napier has been a big point of Planet Nine debate since it was released earlier this year. Looking at all the recently discovered distant Kuiper Belt Objects, this study concludes that in the areas looked at there is evidence for a more uniform distribution of the KBOs. This undermines the Planet Nine theory in that it alleges that the clustering observed by Batygin and Brown is actually just the distribution we would see across the solar system. But Batygin claims you can't draw these conclusions from the study as the rest of the solar system still hasn't been checked. And the area being looked at is still very similar to the area observed back in 2016 when the theory first came about,

Konstantin Batygin  23:49  

It really it comes down to, you know, statistics. There being two ways to do this statistics. Number one, the kind of way that if you have this distance census of Kuiper Belt Objects, you can take a small subset of them, for which you know very well, how they were discovered, pointing history of telescopes, all of this is very well characterised. And you say, and you ask, Well, given the fact that, you know, given this point in history, would we have the real the statistical question that they, they ask and then answer is, do these objects were they discovered only in high probability regions of where we looked meaning? Did we find Kuiper Belt Objects where we looked and the answer?Absolutely, yes. Right. So from there, right, you take a bit of a logical jump. And you say, Well, if you find Kuiper Belt Objects where you look with the telescope, that must mean they're everywhere. Okay, that logical jump doesn't actually follow, especially for these for these surveys like the DES, which has contributed quite a few objects because they actually look directly at the cluster. The other approach to do this, which I think is the better, kind of more informative approach is to forget about who discovered what on the night sky. And and just say, okay, you have a census of 1000s of discoveries, 1000s of Kuiper Belt Objects, and if there's one, I don't know, over there, and it has a given brightness, that means that somebody looked over there and was able to discover an object of at least that brightness. So called observability mapping approach allows you to get and kind of use the power of the comparison sample of of Kuiper Belt Objects being large to inform better the question of what is the likelihood that the collective observational effort of night sky would have discovered the cluster? The uniform distribution? You know, had it been there? And the answer is 0.2%. Right? The 0.2%. So, it's really, you know, remember, right, there's Damn, there's lies, damned lies, and statistics. And you can do your statistics in different ways. I'm not saying that my colleagues did anything wrong, that they exercise they did is 100% correct. It is just that the question that they're asking and answering is one that's somewhat distinct from are the objects clustered or not? It's did we discover them only where we looked? And it wasn't? By the way, if the answer was no, I mean, like, this is not, this is not a joke. Like, if the answer is you look, you have a huge region, and you only find things at like the edge of where you look, then you immediately know that something interesting is going on. But if you have a tiny or not time, but like, you know, a limited region of the sky, and you only find them where you see, it's not really conclusive.

Tim Dowling  27:12  

Right. And we're not with I guess the problem is we're not talking about that many Kuiper Belt Objects.

Konstantin Batygin  27:18  

That's right. Yeah, there's a, you know, the full census is about 20. And, you know, if you limit yourself down to only the, the really well characterised ones, it's, it's 14, and to get to 14, you actually kind of have to stretch how you count them. Right, you have to include the objects that have orbital period somewhat less than 4000 years. So you really cut your data set, basically, in half, when you go to do this. And further down. If you exclude the dynamically unstable objects that are never supposed to cluster in the first place, this is a subtle point that often gets missed, then it asking whether the full data set is clustered is interesting, but it misses a key element, which is that things that hug the orbit of Neptune are being punched around gravitationally by Neptune will not cluster even if Planet Nine is there, it's only the detached objects, the things that have that that are dynamically stable, that should exhibit these patterns and have all of them have the, you know, 11 objects that are stable 10 cluster beautifully, and one is anti aligned. So that's where that's how we we back in 2016, we went from for a lot alignment being four to four. Now the alignment is 10 out of 11.

Tim Dowling  28:46  

But Samantha Lawler is not convinced by these explanations.

Samantha Lawler  28:50  

You can't it's one of those things where you can't say that it doesn't exist, right? You can't say that. There's no way to prove that Planet Nine doesn't exist. But we can say that there's no evidence for the piece of evidence that suggested Planet Nine exists, right?

Tim Dowling  29:09  

Is that the same thing as saying that we don't need to find an explanation that we don't understand yet for the data we have? I mean, is it explained by gravity the gravitational arrangements that we know about already or do we need some kind of explanation?

Samantha Lawler  29:25  

Yeah, so out of all of the really these high power centre or high perihelion Kuiper Belt Objects, the ones that never get very close in theirs, we can explain the orbits of all of them with with known known dynamics known gravitational interactions, either with the solar system or with the galaxy, except for two there's two that we cannot explain with, with what we know about the solar system. And that's Sedna and VP13 these very distant ones.

Tim Dowling  30:00  

So you're saying that we do we do need some kind of theory?

Samantha Lawler  30:04  

Yeah, Yeah. So something to explain those two, right. So there's a whole, a whole bunch of theories that have been suggested right. And, and Planet Nine is one of those possible theories. So some of the the possible theories, I'm actually going to look at my list here. So, right, so there could have been a rogue planet in the outer solar system. In the early days of the solar system, there was maybe a fifth planet, or a fifth giant planet out there, that got ejected from the solar system, that's one way to explain it, it could have possibly been captured from another solar system, right, these really high, high person or objects, it could have been a star flew past way back. And in the early days of the solar system, it could have just been gravitational perturbations from all of the gas that was around when the sun formed. And it could be just, you know, just dynamics that we don't fully explain from, from the Oort Cloud, right? So so there's a lot of possible explanations. And, and Planet Nine is one of those possible explanations.

Tim Dowling  31:14  

It might seem weird to think that there's a planet five times the mass of Earth in our solar system that we never knew about and still can't see. But it's not weird to have a five Earth mass planet in general, it's very common size for a planet in other star systems we know about, in fact, it's the most common size. So it's actually sort of weird that we don't have one, unless we do. What happens next with Planet Nine will almost certainly be thanks to a massive new telescope that's about to come online. The Veera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile has a primary mirror the width of a tennis court, and it's about to embark on what's called the legacy survey of space and time, a 10 year project.

Konstantin Batygin  31:57  

I expect that we will have found it within this decade for sure. My certainty is is not one that comes from you know, some religious obsession with with Planet Nine, it really comes from the fact that I, I know that the mathematical models are right. And the data appears to be stacking up pretty well. So when, you know, I'm merely following the kind of the track laid down laid out by by mathematical reasoning. At some point, you know, if the whole thing breaks down, you know, I'll gladly announced that the whole thing is it was just, you know, a red herring. But you know, it's important to chase these, these things down.

Tim Dowling  32:46  

How long will it take not to find? I mean, how long would it be before we can rule it out?

Konstantin Batygin  32:52  

Similar timescale because we now with the Vera Rubin observatory coming online, within the next couple of years, the sensors of Kuiper Belt Objects will go up by hopefully a factor of 10. Right? And so, we will be able to say with, with no significant certainty, all whether these patterns are there, really, right, like, with better certainty than point 1% that we keep referring to? And I think that's going to kind of be the final kind of stamp on all this. My sense is that there Rubin will just discover Planet Nine, and that'll be the end of the story.

Tim Dowling  33:37  

How will you sort of personally feel if in the next couple of years, they they find Planet Nine.

Samantha Lawler  33:41  

Oh, I would actually, I wouldn't be delighted if they found Planet Nine, that would be so cool. I mean, like, like, you know, there's there's exoplanet systems that we know of planets around other stars that have really distant planets on orbits like that, right. But we don't know anything about what the inner parts of those planetary systems are, like, right. So they could have, you know, an entire solar system like we have, and something really far away. Or maybe those are two totally different types of systems, right? We don't know yet. So so that would be a really cool piece of evidence just for, you know, how does our solar system fit in with other solar systems that we've discovered so I you know, I wouldn't be completely delighted to be wrong and for Planet Nine to be real, that would be absolutely fascinating. But right now, I don't think the evidence is there.

Tim Dowling  34:34  

Because I guess a five to ten times the mass of Earth planet is the one thing our set is missing, isn't it? I mean, lots of solar systems have them and we don't.

Samantha Lawler  34:41  

Yeah, exactly. Right. Like the most common size of exoplanet is something that we do not have in our solar system. And we don't know like, would that be a water planet? Would it be a planet with a really thick atmosphere? Would it be something halfway in between the Earth and Neptune or, like we don't know. The most common type of planet in the galaxy, and we have no idea what it what it looks like, right? So it would be really cool to have one in our own solar system to study.

Tim Dowling  35:09  

Even after all that I couldn't possibly make a case myself for or against Planet Nine. But at least I now know what it's supposed to be. It seems weird to me that there could be something out there that big and significant in our own solar system that we can't see and aren't sure about. But hopefully we can find it within the next few years. And then we'll finally have a replacement for Pluto. Maybe we could just call it Pluto.

Konstantin Batygin  35:34  

David Bowie is another one that came up. We were immediately opposed to giving it some, you know, godly names just because I feel like before you have confirmed it, that's not the right call. Also, there are no good, you know, Greco Roman gods left. Because they've all been used up for asteroids. I think that the demigod of like untied shoelaces might still be available. But that but the but it's slim pickins out there.

Tim Dowling  36:05  

Thanks for listening to this episode of insult my intelligence. And thank you to my guests, professors Samantha Lawler and Konstantin Batygin. Next week, we'll be discussing left handedness why some of this have this difference, and what advantages and or disadvantages it can bring. And a bit of a spoiler alert. One of the reasons I'm interested is because I am myself left handed.

The astronomer Percival Lowell made similar predictions based on the idea that Neptune alone couldn't account for the perturbations of Uranus. Ha ha ha. Go again, just go again.

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