Giant planet dubbed Tyche could be sending comets our way

planet tyche

Theories about the existence of a distant planet called Tyche may be confirmed or denied by NASA telescope data released this spring. Image: CC ShardsOfBlue/Flickr

An undiscovered planet orbiting the sun unseen in deep space may be revealed by a new NASA telescope. The behavior of comets and a recently discovered dwarf planet have led astronomers to believe that a huge undiscovered planet may exist. A pair of astrophysicists are hoping that data from NASA’s WISE infrared telescope offers proof that a planet larger than Jupiter they have named “Tyche” does exist.

Evidence of Planet Tyche

Theories about a huge new planet in deep space are based on a hypothesis by astrophysicists John Matese and Daniel Whitmire at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. They theorize that the gravitational influence of  a planet they have named Tyche (Ty-kee), up to four times the mass of Jupiter, may be responsible for sending comets from a region in space called the Oort Cloud toward Earth. Tyche is also believed responsible for the unusual orbit of the dwarf planet Sedna, a planetoid discovered in 2003 that travels from 7 trillion to 92 trillion miles from the sun during its travels. The period of Tyche’s alleged orbit — 27 million years — has also been linked to theories about mass extinctions on Earth credited to comet impacts.

Is Tyche hiding in the cold darkness of deep space?

The new planet Tyche is a variation on a theory proposed in 1984 that a distant companion to the sun — a cold, brown dwarf star dubbed “Nemesis” — may account for comet activity. Tyche, if it exists, is estimated to orbit the sun at 15,000 times the distance at which Earth orbits. Tyche may have escaped detection until now because at that distance the planet would not radiate heat or reflect light. Whitmire said that Tyche is probably a huge ball of condensed hydrogen and helium with a colorful, banded surface similar to Jupiter. Tyche is also likely to have moons.

WISE telescope could confirm Tyche

The existence of Tyche in the Oort Cloud could be confirmed or denied in April when data from a sky survey taken by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) telescope is released. NASA launched the WISE telescope in December 2009 on a 10-month mission to map the entire sky. In addition to discovering numerous asteroids and comets, WISE observed brown dwarfs and dark galaxies that shine in the infrared spectrum of light.



New York Daily News

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