Planet Nine is believed to exist somewhere in the void of space between the Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud, billions of miles from Earth. Professor Michael Brown, a professor of astronomy at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), originally proposed the Planet Nine theory in 2016. The astronomer and colleague Konstantin Batygin have since dedicated their lives to pinpointing the mystery planet’s location. Dr Brown is now looking to prove the planet exists by focusing the Subaru Telescope Mauna Kea Observatory in Hawaii at the night skies.
But because the planet is so far away from Earth, about 600 times as far away as the Sun, it is an incredibly hard object to pinpoint.
Speaking to Linda Moulton of Coast to Coast AM radio, the astronomer explained the tricky process behind locating Planet Nine.
Dr Brown said: “The problem is that it’s so far away that even though large, it’s amongst the faintest things we can see with our telescopes.
“So we have to spend a lot of time on the small number of very large telescopes to have a hope of seeing it at all.”
In order to locate Planet Nine, the scientist and his team of researchers are taking snapshots of the night sky on consecutive nights to spot any difference between the photos.
All of the stars and galaxies snapped on one night will remain in the same position when photographed again the following day.
But anything moving within the confines of our solar system will streak or smudge across the photos, revealing its position.
Because Planet Nine is so far away from the Earth, Dr Brown expects it to be the slowest moving object across the starry photos.
He said: “So, we’ll just barely see it move on those two nights but as soon as we see it move we’ll know where it is.”
Planet Nine itself is believed to be a super-Earth of sorts, between five to 10 times the size of our home planet.
The planet’s theoretical presence beyond the Kuiper Belt explains why many objects in that asteroid belt tend to group together.
Some theories also propose Planet Nine is a rogue world from another system, which was caught in the gravity of our own system.
Whatever the case may be, Dr Brown said once he can get a glimpse of the planet, all of the world’s powerful telescopes should be able to narrow in on its location.
He said: “We would predict where it should be a week later and we will look with things like the Keck Telescope but we’ll also at that point try to get our hands on every other telescope you can imagine.
“That will be the perfect thing to look at with the Hubble Space Telescope, with big radio telescopes like in South America, many different telescopes will be able to observe it once we pinpoint where it is.”
The astronomer said he expects the discovery to be surprising and Planet Nine itself will most likely resemble the planet Neptune.