I would like to discuss the recent data that has been presented earlier this week to support the hypothesis that there may be a ninth planet beyond Neptune. Additionally, I will also discuss H.P. Lovecraft’s pre-Pluto comments about the existence of a ninth planet and how such a world may be an important component of the Lovecraftian Solar System. Thus, this article is the first of a two part discussion on this subject.
For the sake of augment I am adhering to a resolution passed in 2006 by the International Astronomical Union in stating that Yuggoth (known to many as Pluto) is classified as a dwarf planet. Whether you agree or disagree with the decision, that is the official description of Yuggoth so if another, larger body is found beyond Neptune, it would officially be the 9th planet of our Solar System. Many people are upset with the idea that Pluto has been demoted from being a planet and I have heard others complain that scientists are always trying to confuse us or can’t make their minds up; well, I thought I would talk a little about how science works before we discuss the evidence for a ninth planet in our solar system.
Showing the relative size of some of the largest trans-Neptunian bodies relative to Earth. Note the size of Pluto and its largest moon Charon relative to the other objects (www.xenosystems.net).
I always like to say science is not math. Math is sometimes called a universal truth; one plus one will always equal two (at least in our known universe). Thus, most forms of mathematics are deductive reasoning; a set of rules are established and dictates what the answers will be. As long as the established rules (called axioms) are established as true, you can be absolutely sure of the conclusions. For example, Pythagoras’s theorem states that the square of the hypotenuse (the side opposite of the right angle of a triangle) is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides of a triangle. Thus, it is a well-established fact that if you have a right triangle and run through these calculations you will get the expected answer beyond a shadow of a doubt.
The mathematical truth of the Pythagorean theorem.
In contrast, much of science is inductive reasoning; that is, broad generations are made from specific observations. Observations are made and a hypothesis is constructed that is then tested either through additional observations and the establishment of predictive model and/or through experimentation. If enough data and conclusions are developed that supports the hypothesis, then it can eventually become a theory. While theories are not absolute truth as can be established in mathematics, they always come closer to the truth with the accumulation of more data. Thus, the theories of gravity, the atom and evolution are theories because they all have an incredible amount of observable and experimental evidence for their support. No alternative theories have come close to describing / predicting conditions in our world and reality as these theories do.
So in the case of the 9th planet, some evidence has recently been presented for its existence. Again, I hear a lot of people say “I’ll believe it when I can see it.” However, I would remind everyone that Neptune was actually first discovered through mathematical calculations conducted by John Couch Adams before it was ever observed in the night sky. As noted in Mark Littmann’s book, Planets Beyond: Discovering the Outer Solar System (1990), Neptune is the planet found on a sheet of paper. Using only mathematics, Adams predicted the existence and position of Neptune in order to explain discrepancies in the orbit of Uranus. The same conclusions were reached through mathematics by Urbain Jean Joseph Le Verrier around the same time. The confirmation of the existence of Neptune was made by the astronomer Johann Gottfried Galle. These efforts, to discover the existence of a large planet through mathematics is a testament to the power of the Laws of Newton and Kepler. In this case discrepancies in the mathematics of how planetary bodies obey the Laws of Newton were used to form a hypothesis, which was then confirmed through observations. A similar approach is being used to seek out and confirm the existence of the 9th Planet (here called Planet Nine).
Yuggoth Watchtower by Chaberwood (www.deviantart.com)
Essentially, some unusual observations have been made of objects in the Kuiper Belt, a zone of the solar system that is approximately 150 astronomical units (a.u.) from the Sun but never gets closer than 50 a.u. As a point of reference, the distance between the Earth and the Sun is 1 a.u. Also, the Kuiper Belt is the outer edge of our solar system, beyond the orbit of Neptune, that contains a variety of bodies including comets and asteroids (see the earlier illustration of tran-Neptunian objects). Essentially, these bodies all have perihelia (the points of their orbits closest to the Sun) that cluster near the ecliptic plane. A more detailed analysis of six of these objects show them to have clustered perihelia as well as elliptical orbits oriented the same way, about 30 degrees below the ecliptic plan. If there was no Planet Nine then the gravitation influence of the other giant planets would have resulted in these smaller bodies drifting away from each other. It has been calculated that there is only a 0.007% change that the existing arrangement of these trans-Neptunian objects is the result of chance (Kelly Beatty, Making the Case for “Planet Nine” in http://www.skyandtelescope.com). Something must be keeping these bodies corralled and in-line with the observed orbits and this is the case for Planet Nine.
Orbits from six trans-Neptunian objective in our solar system. These observed orbits provide evidence for the existence of Planet Nine (from Caltech / Robert Hurt).
Based on the most recent calculations the proposed planet needed to keep these trans-Neptunian bodies in line, must be at least 10 times of Earth’s mass and have an orbit around the Sun of between 10,000 to 20,000 years. So now the search is on to find this unknown world.
In Part 2 we will review Lovecraft’s thoughts on a ninth planet before Pluto was discovered and discuss Planet Nine’s role in the Lovecraftian Solar System. Thank you – Fred.