ASTROPHYSICISTS believe they have discovered an Earth-like planet in our solar system.
Researchers from Kindai University and the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan have observed the Kuiper Belt at the end of the solar system.
The Kuiper Belt is a donut-shaped ring of icy objects around the Sun that extends just beyond Neptune’s orbit, NASA explains.
After several simulations, the team now believes they’ve found a planet about the size of Earth out there.
“We predict the existence of an Earth-like planet and several trans-Neptunian objects in particular orbits in the outer Solar System that may serve as observable, verifiable signatures of the putative planet’s disturbances,” the team writes in a new article.
On the other hand, if the researchers’ predictions are correct, this new planet would be around 1.5-3 times the size of Earth.
The team also estimates that the planet could be between 200 and 500 astronomical units (AU) from the sun.
Contents: Earth is about 94 AU from the Sun, while Pluto is 39 AU from the Sun.
The researchers were careful to distinguish this potential planet from the so-called Planet Nine.
Planet Nine is a hypothetical ninth planet in the outer region of the solar system.
The team said more information was needed to confirm the existence of both planets.
“More detailed knowledge of the orbital structure in the distant Kuiper Belt may reveal or rule out the existence of a hypothetical planet in the outer Solar System,” the team writes.
And even if the existence of the celestial body is confirmed, that does not automatically make it a planet.
There are certain criteria that a space body must meet to be a planet, including a certain size.
The results were published August 25 in the Astronomical Journal.