Astronomers have been debating for decades whether a trans-Plutonian planet is hiding undiscovered in our solar system. A new study by the University of Cambridge and the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) concludes that there must be not one, but two planets in our solar system beyond Pluto and Neptune. In the study, researchers investigated the strange orbital behaviors of extreme trans-Nepturnian objects (ETNOs), and studied the "Kozai Mechanism". The Kozai Mechanism relates to the gravitational perturbation a larger body (a planet, for example) exerts on the orbit of a smaller object (such as an asteroid). Using the Kozai Mechanism, the researchers were able to explain odd behaviors exhibited by objects far out in our solar system, by proposing the objects are reacting to a planet beyond Neptune and Pluto we have yet discovered.
It is uncertain just how many undiscovered planets are causing the disruption in the ETNO's orbital patterns. However, Carlos de la Fuente Marcos, co-author of the study from UCM, stated that "...our calculations suggest that there are at least two planets, and probably more, within the confines of our solar system.".
Outside of the confines of our solar system, a new study suggests that planets thought the be inhospitable to humans outside of our solar system, called exoplanets, may be very Earth-like after all. In a study done by the University of Toronto, researchers created a three-dimensional climate model that could predict the planet's spin in relation to its atmosphere, which, in turn, affects the planet's climate. The model predicted these exoplanets more than likely had more moderate climates, and have day and night cycles. Many theoretical arguments already suggest that these exoplanets can support an atmosphere similar to that of Earth's, and with this new study, the possibility of these planets being able to support life is not a far fetched one.
2015 is starting off with some exciting news about our universe. We may have some planets hiding in our own solar system, and there is a new possibility that life can exist on other planets outside of our solar system, light years away. If you want to find out more about the universe and astronomy itself, visit www.spacetoday.org. To keep up with all kinds of science news, from astronomy to nanotechnology, go to phys.org.