Saturday, January 23, 2016

A Possible Ninth Planet

In October, I wrote about our family's read-through of Tom Standage's book The Neptune File, which detailed the search for the planet that eventually was named Neptune. Neptune was the first planet that astronomers ever discovered, not by observing it in the heavens, but by making mathematical calculations. These days ever more involved mathematical calculations have made possible the discovery of not-yet-observed planets outside of our own solar system.

How exciting to read this in the news this week, that another planet may be near the outer edges of our solar system! One we didn't know was there, but which might well be there, based on our observations of the orbits of various objects in the Kuiper Belt. If it is there, it is likely three times larger than earth, but smaller than Uranus and Neptune, and probably a gaseous planet. If it's where they think it is, it's so far from the sun that it could take 20,000 years to revolve around it!

It's so marvelous to contemplate the mysteries of the universe and to realize how much we don't know. And so fascinating to think of another planet having been there, perhaps all this time, and we just weren't aware. It makes you wonder how many other things are real and true and solid and beautiful and simply beyond our awareness and field of vision.

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