School

A technical writing assignment from a few years ago.

Analysis of Gravitational Studies of Trans-Neptunian Objects  Reveals Feasibility of Planetary Mass  

for

Instructor: A. Laughtland 

Edmonds Community College  Engineering 231

by

Martin E. Douge

Edmonds Community College

December 2, 2018 

                                                  Table of Contents                                                       ii

Page

Abstract ……………………………………………………………………………………. iii

   Figure 1

Introduction …………………………………………………………………………………1    a. Background ……………………………………………………………………………. 1

  • Region of Space …………………………………………………………………………1
  • Contemporary Analysis …………………………………………………………………2

   Image 1

Searches for Planet X ………………………………………………………………………2

   2a. Methodology ……………………………………………………………………………3

    2b. Evidence of Studies …………………………………………………………………….3

   Image 2

Alternative Studies ………………………………………………………………………….4

   Figure 2

   3a. Dark Matter …………………………………………………………………………….4    3b. Consequences of Planet X ……………………………………………………………..5

   Figure 3

Summation of Evidence ……………………………………………………………………5

Conclusion-recommendations………….………………………………………………….5

Works Cited ………………………………………………………………………………..6

Glossary of Terms …………………………………………………………………………7

Appendices …………………………………………………………………………………7

                          a.) Credentials 

                                                                             List of Images                                                      iii

Image 1.) Kuiper Belt Objects. – Canada-France Ecliptic Plane Survey. accessed 19, Nov. 2018 

Image 2.) Trans-Neptunian Objects. – N.A.S.A. Science and Exploration Library accessed. 18, Nov. 2018

List of Figures 

Figure 1.) Definition of Astronomical Units. – Martin E. Douge. Created Nov. 2018 

Figure 2.) Uncertainty Zone – Cassini WISE Survey, A. Finenga, Laskar, J. et al. accessed 15, Nov. 2018

Figure 3.)  Gravity Affected Orbits – Shankman, et al accessed 15, Nov. 2018

iv

Abstract

The purpose of this report is to examine current evidence on Trans-Neptunian Objects and the Kuiper Belt, in discerning the presence of an outlying, large planetary mass, known commonly as Planet X, at 500 – 700 astronomical units’ distance from the Earth. In computer modelling of our solar system, researchers have uncovered evidence through direct and indirect observations that is indicative of such a mass. While other researchers are hesitant to substantiate this evidence, the data is amassing substantial belief. While this may be the effect of one body, it is my hypothesis that it is a causation of multiple undiscovered trans-Neptunian objects. The reasoning behind this pertinent research is the growing questions regarding our own planet, and the foresight for human survivability.  

Figure 1: Martin E. Douge, Webster’s  

Introduction

In recent discoveries made by astronomers and researchers throughout the world, the subject of an undiscovered gravitational force, a hypothetical Planet X, has once again been ignited. The evidence of such a body in our own solar system has been cause for speculation of search and debate for over a century. In this report the evidence of a gravitational disturbance with inherent planetary bahavior is examined. It is my hypothesis that it is not a singular source of gravity effects, but the causation of many varied factors. 

a. —– Background

The Planet X theory dates back well over 100 years to the famous philanthropist and astronomer, Percival Lowell (1855-1916), within his telescope and facilities at the Lowell Observatory in Arizona using the new medium of photography. After discovering Pluto, his theories and research continued to involve this area of space. Today, utilizing advances such as space-based telescopes and satellites to measure gravitational anomalies and distortions, known as gravimetric studies, researchers have been able to examine the outer planets of our solar system with detail and accuracy as never before.

 In the search for other planetary bodies outside of our solar system, astronomers have discovered planets unbound by gravity to solar systems in exo-galaxies. “the first detection of an extra-solar planet orbiting a sun like star in a dense stellar environment dates to 2012, when a NASA-funded team discovered Pr0201b and Pr0211b inside the Praesepe open cluster (Quinn, et al. 2012). This is currently being documented as discoveries are rapidly coming in, as the number of free-floating planets discovered has measured a substantial number as of this writing. This research is providing technologies needed to finding objects closer to our home and the results have been very productive.  The 2016 publishing of evidence of a massive planet within the outer solar system by Cal-Tech researchers Konstantin Batygin and Michael Brown within this region of the solar system, has ignited renewed interest in recent years. 

In our solar system, the objects being discovered are numbering in the tens at this moment and theorized to be in the hundreds, including twelve new moons of Jupiter recently recorded (N.A.S.A., National Geographic) and the discovery of numerous protoplanets beyond Neptune. Since the discovery of the Kuiper Belt in 1993 by Jewitt & Luu, the discoveries made in the solar system beyond Neptune, called trans-Neptunian Objects has increased exponentially (Cory Shankman, Kavelaars, J. et al). In my hypothesis of the causes of influence on objects and mass in this region of our solar system, the combined mass of the multiple objects correlates to a larger overall gravitational influence than any of them singularly. This effect may mimic a larger presence or our measurements of the surrounding space. 

b. —– Region of Space

The Kuiper Belt, a disc formation beyond Neptune, consists of small icy objects known as Kuiper, the region is also inhabited with an increasing number of protoplanets; Planets that are small and still in their formation stages, representing minimal gravitational effects. Trans-Neptunian Objects, abbreviated as TNOs and Kuiper Belt Objects, abbreviated as KBOs, aligned to current orbits when a mass some 6x to 10x the Earth’s mass is added to the input of the model. While studying these TNOs, and KBOs, researchers have the evidence of the effects of a mass, the residual gravity of a planet’s movement in space. Using these data sets, they can quantify the missing mass size and effectively its displacement. 

Pluto resides in this region of our solar system as does other recently discovered objects including Eris and

Ceres. There have been hypothesized by the small sample that we have that there is as many as 200-300 TNO’s and KBO’s. (Wesley C. Frasier, Brown, M. The Absolute Magnitude Distribution of Kuiper Belt Objects)

Batygin and Brown from Cal-Tech University, long time researchers in this field, published their data for the  hypothetical missing planet, it is evidence that is well supported; That there was supporting mathematics, and modelling for a planetary body guiding the orbits of multiple TNOs, and KBOs. Since we have not discovered the mass itself, it is imperative that the evidence that is available in this region is studied. The current understanding of solar system formation also agrees in consensus that a large planetary mass could have been ejected from our early or primordial solar system. Although the evidence indicates a mass at approximately 500 AU to 700 AU; Astronomical Units, alternative theories of the cause of this data have been presented. As they are examined, the strength of the fields of Astronomy and Astrophysics and their importance to our

understanding of the universe is displayed. Included in this is Batygin and Brown’s previous studies on

gravitational anomalies induced by the mass of the combined KBOs.well                                                                           

Image 1.) Kuiper Belt objects. credit: Canada-France Ecliptic

Plane Survey   

c. —– Contemporary Analysis

Modern supercomputers and spacebased telescopes have added to our abilities to explore outer space. The Hubble, and now defunct Keppler Space telescopes have provided invaluable additions to the field of astrophysics and astronomy. The modelling that has also occurred in supercomputers allows us to travel backwards, and forward in time and test hypothesis and theories of formation and orbital variances, implications of gravitational effects, and a multitude of other parameters. Launched over a decade ago in 2006, the recent flyby of Pluto by N.A.S.A.’s New Horizons mission provided a new perspective at this part of our area of the universe. The previously understood dynamics of planet formation in this region has received a major update in the last five years, and our understanding of the forces at these distances from the Sun has brought with it new inquiries and theories. Gravimetric waves, how gravity flows, and other theories are proving correct and definable with each passing month. Our understanding of the solar system and space is in an exponential stage of growth and will be for years to come. The discovery of large planets free-floating without direction from a star or planetary system has opened our eyes to possibilities never imagined. With the environmental impacts of our existence on this planet more evident by the year, these other possible outposts provide alternative possibilities for human survivability. Searches for Planet X

There have been numerous studies and methodology in amassing our knowledge of the solar system. In contemporary astronomy, computer models are the most valuable in their ability to visualize planetary movements and patterns. A new computer model was published in 2005, which modelled our early solar system from primordial through evolution. It has taken on the name of the Nice model (Harold F. Levinson, Morbidelli, A. et al). In the researcher’s publication, “Late Orbital Instabilities in the Outer Planets Induced by Interaction with a  Self-Gravitating Planetesimal Disk.” The Nice model reproduces a part of our early formation that is called the Lunar late heavy bombardment period. A period of time when the inner solar system was under intense impact bombardments about 3.8 Gyr ago. This computer model states that such a large planet made the most sense in affecting orbits of these trans-Neptunian objects. This planetary gravity could also be the answer to many other questions about our solar system that scientists have studied for years as noted above.   2a.) —– Methodology

The data acquired includes computational studies and the mathematical calculations that also correspond and are related to solar obliquity, planetary axial tilt.  Batygin and Brown’s data observed that recently discovered TNOs exhibited orbital and gravitational behaviors that suggest they are affected by a large gravitational force.

The same force that is hypothesized to affect our Sun is also inferred in the axil tilt of our inner planetary orbits. The inner planets tilt as they orbit the Sun at approximately six degrees. The evidence presented itself in other research being performed in the region. The hypothetical planet that they associate with this gravitational evidence would have an extremely elongated orbit, which averages out to 2.8×10^9 miles. Orbiting the Sun only once in a 10,000 to 20,000-year period. The protoplanets and icy debris caught in this gravitational tide are attracted to planet X with more energy than towards Neptune. With a distance believed at some 500 AU to 700 AU a documented discovery would redefine understanding of planetary interactions throughout the universe. Differing research methods limited the search as studies with IRAS and WISE did not detect masses of Jupiter and Saturn sizes within 25,000 AU and 10,000 UA respectively (A. Finenga, Laskar, J. et al). 2018                        2b.) —– Evidence of Studies

In the most recent studies of these Kuiper Belt objects, there are at least six, the most distant yet discovered, that point to the same direction in physical space (Batygin, Brown, 2016). In reviewing their data, the computer simulations also correlated with other anomalies and questions about the tilt of our planetary orbits to the Sun’s equator and the axial orbit of Uranus, which orbits horizontally to its orbit of the Sun. In the models of our early solar system an ejected planet is substantiated by studies of free-floating planets in open clusters, done with the James Webb Space Telescope. (Fabio Paccucci, Ferrara A. et al.) The discovery of these free-floating planets in the galactic expanse may signify migration or a byproduct of solar system creation. These seemingly unconnected disturbances may well provide to be linked to a single cause, and therefore must be contained

within the evidence. With the data sets currently being deduced, it appears more than logical that a planet x does somewhere reside in our solar system.

Image 2: (N.A.S.A. Science and Exploration) accessed 20 Nov.

2018

Alternative Studies                                                                             

In earlier studies done by the OSSOS, the Outer Solar System Origins Survey, a large study ran on the

Canadian-France-Hawaii telescope from 2013 to 2017, resulting in the discovery of over 800 TNOs. (Cory Shankman, Kavelaars, J. et al). Observational bias was calculated and considered by the earlier researchers noting the evidence being presented by Batygin and Brown. A cautionary consideration was held that the accumulated sample size of the TNOs was inconsistent with the calculations needed to eliminate observational bias. Their studies have rendered well-determined orbits of hundreds of TNOs and found that TNOs do not have strong gravitational interactions with Neptune stimulating the bias parameters. The angles at which observations are made are imperative to this understanding of TNOs and KBOs. Measurements of distribution, eccentricity, inclination, and absolute magnitude are among the methodologies used in these studies. Shankman notes that the sensitivity of the OSSOS data documented is highly accurate in modelling and observed data. His assertation that more time and data rendering is needed to define the research is astute

Figure 2.) Our observational window is surmassed by what is known as an uncertainty zone.   (A. Finenga, Laskar, J. et al.) 

                       3a.) —– Dark Matter

One aspect of this study that is not addressed in the methodology is our understanding of dark matter. Dark matter is a relatively new field of study in the gravitational sciences being done in astrophysics.

 400      The presence of dark matter is measured by scientists by the gravitational effects it has on the surrounding space. Since our only way to detect this form of matter to this point is gravitationally, the presence of a dark matter source for interference in TNOs and KBOs is not well defined. It is worth noting in this report that recent discoveries in gravimetric waves, the study of how gravity flows around mass in space. Yu. E. Pokrovski, in “Dark Matter Bodies in Star and Planet Structures” shows evidence of the flow of gravity at various distances from star sources as variable to the gravity of the surrounding mass. Like air, it appears gravity bends around objects with a detectable viscosity. Atmospheric and other interferences can be a causation, as well as interaction other gravitational fields. In this newer data, speculation and theory of dark matter should be observed as an outlier and influencer of all the data insofar. 

                              3b.) –— Consequences of Planet X

The consequences of a Planet X are as dynamic as this graphic of the TNOs gravity influences opposed to their respective orbits. C. Shankman and Kavelaars, J.J.’s paper “Consequences of a Distant Massive Planet on the Large Semimajor Axis Trans-Neptunian Objects,” 27, Jan.

 2017, involves extensive modelling done with a wide array of dynamical theories and influences on this part of the solar system. Noted in these studies is the observational bias, the mathematical formulas for knowing where a graphically represented object lies in real space. While these are the scientific consequences, the overall consequences reverberate globally. In almost every aspect of our culture, religions, science and the future directions of humanity’s efforts would eventually    

rest in the knowledge that began in these reports and conclusions. Exploration and resources, energy and every field of science would rely on our ability to survive on another planet. It is an increasing reality that our finite planet cannot sustain our ambitious natures. 

Figure 3: Gravity affected orbits: credit: Shankman,

Kavelaars

Summation of Evidence

 Throughout this report, evidence of a massive planet is surmised and discussed. Alternative theories of the causation of this data is also presented and represent a small portion of the information we have on this unsolved mystery of the solar system and what may lie just beyond our understanding. In this summation, evidence that represents more than one major mass, or the effects of multiple masses is my hypothesis. To paraphrase Carl Sagan, one constant of the universe is a seeming endless example of duality. In the expanse of human history as well, there is cause and effect. The disastrous effects of such a mass is evident, the optimal effects barely discerned.  

Conclusion-Recommendations

It is my conclusion multiple objects of sufficient mass inhabit that region of the solar system to cause these discoveries. The cause for the orbital tilt of our planetary disk, as well as the tilting of our own Sun is a byproduct of this gravitational force. The action recommended is continuing studies to determine the likelihood of these objects being inhabitable, or cause for concern to the inner solar system. The ongoing research into dark matter should also be imparted as a standard observational bias in these data sets. As we search for distant worlds and ones which inhabit closer regions to our own planet, the urgency is an underlying impetus as we discover more about our own imperiled home-world. Such discoveries not only shape our knowledge but our futures as well. 

6Works Cited

Bailey, Elizabeth. Batygin, K. et al. “Solar Obliquity Induced by Planet Nine.” The Astronomical Journal,   

152:126 Nov, 2016 DOI 10.3847/0004-6256/152/5/126 Accessed 24, Nov. 2018 

Batygin, Konstantin. Brown, M. et al. “Retention of a Primordial Cold Classical Kuiper Belt in an InstabilityDriven Model of Solar System Formation.” The Astrophysical Journal, 738:13, 1, Sep. 2011 DOI 10.1088/004-637X/738/1/13 Accessed 23, Nov. 2018

Durham University. “‘Cataclysmic’ collision shaped Uranus’ evolution.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2, July 2018. <.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/07/180702170903>. Accessed on 24, Nov 2018

Fienga, A., Lasker, J. et al. “Constraints on the Location of a Possible 9th Planet Derived from the Cassini Data”. Astronomy and Astrophysics, 587, 2016. DOI 10.1051/0004-6361/201628227. Accessed 20, Nov. 2018

Hotz, Robert Lee. “The Hunt for ‘Planet Nine’ Unearths 12 New Moons Around Jupiter.” Wall Street Journal – Online Edition, 18, July 2018, p. 1. EBSCOhost, Accessed on 20, Nov. 2018

Levinson, Harold, Morbidelli, A. et al. “Late Orbital Instabilities in the Outer Planets Induced by Interaction with a Self-Gravitating Planetesimal Disk” The Astronomical Journal, 142:152. DOI 10.1088/00046256/142/5/152 Accessed 28, Nov. 2018

Redd, Nola Taylor. “The Solar System’s Violent Past. (Cover Story).” Astronomy, vol. 45, no. 2, Feb. 2017, pp.

22–27. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=120094373&site=ehost-live.

Pacucci, Fabio. and Ferrara A. et al. “Detectability of Free Floating Planets in Open Clusters with the James Webb Space Telescope”. The Astronomical Journal Letters, 1 Dec. 2013 Accessed on 22, Nov. 2018

Pokrovski, Yu. “Dark Matter Bodies in Star and Planet Structures”. Physics of Atomic Nuclei, 2014 Vol. 7 pp 930-935. DOI 10.1134/S1063778814070138. Accessed 18, Nov. 2018

J. Schneider. “Measuring the Radius and Mass of Planet Nine.” Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, vol. 129, no. 980, Oct. 2017, p. 1. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1088/1538-3873/aa79fd. accessed 19, Nov.

2018

Sugarman, Joe. “Is the Phantom Planet Real?” Air & Space Smithsonian Jun. 2017: 54. ProQuest. accessed 23, Nov. 2018.

Vega, Elijah. “Scrawny Dwarf Planet, Goblin, found Beyond Pluto.” University Wire, 04, Oct. 2018, ProQuest.

accessed 23 Nov. 2018.

Glossary of Terms

AU ………………………………………… Astronomical Unit.

IRAS ……………………………………… Infrared Astronomical Satellite. 

KBOs ………………………………………Kuiper Bet Objects.

TNO’s………………………………………Trans-Neptunian Objects.

Proto-Planet ………………………………  Developing Planet.

WISE ……………………………………… All Sky Survey.

Appendices

i. Credentials 

Martin Douge is in his first year of studies at Edmonds Community College. As he looks forward to the exciting challenges college brings, Mr. Douge is currently enrolled in the Engineering Technologies and Material Science program offered by Edmonds Community College. Mr. Douge enjoys creative hobbies and is active in his local community.