The possible existence of a planet beyond Pluto has long been debated within the scientific community, but astronomers from Spain have released a new paper which they believe affirms its presence.
According to a news release by the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology, the team "used a novel technique to analyse the orbits of the so-called extreme trans-Neptunian objects [or TNOs] and, once again, they point out that there is something perturbing them: a planet located at a distance between 300 to 400 times the Earth-Sun separation."
Scientists researching the mysterious planetary body, known as Planet Nine, have typically focused on the orbits of TNOs, which are situated past Neptune, mostly in an area called the Kuiper Belt.
As the release notes, in this case, the astronomers focused on extreme TNOs which are "located at average distances greater than 150 AU [or astronomical units] and that never cross Neptune's orbit."
Based on their analysis of these objects' nodes, which are the areas that are most likely to interact with other bodies, the team found that 28 "are clustered in certain ranges of distances from the Sun."
They also "found a correlation, where none should exist, between the positions of the nodes and the inclination, one of the parameters which defines the orientation of the orbits of these icy objects in space."
As a result, co-author Carlos De la Fuente Marcos has said, in part, "we interpret these results as signs of the presence of a planet that is actively interacting with them in a range of distances from 300 to 400 AU."
He added, "Given the current definition of planet, this other mysterious object may not be a true planet, even if it has a size similar to that of the Earth, as it could be surrounded by huge asteroids or dwarf planets."