Evidence gathered by NASA’S Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) telescope, suggests that a gas giant may be lurking in the Oort Cloud, the most remote part of the outer solar system which is believed to consist of icy comets. This would make it 375 times farther from the Sun than Pluto.

Tyche planet

The suspected planet has been named Tyche (pronounced ty-kee) by the two astrophysicists proposing it for “planet” status, Daniel Whitmire and John Matese of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. The researchers have been collecting data for the last 10 years, and the discovery is based on unusual orbital patterns in the Oort cloud.

Tyche named for the Greek goddess of luck, is sometimes referred to as Planet X.

The discovery is based in large part on a mathematical model that would explain the orbital patterns of comets in the Oort cloud. This model coupled with data from WISE, indicates the presence of a gas planet four times the mass of Jupiter. Given its super-size, it is probably orbited by moons, some of which may be the size of Mars.

It has been proposed that Tyche probably formed around another star and was later captured by the sun’s gravitational field. According to a theory developed by Dr. Rhawn Joseph , planets may be expelled from dying solar systems when their sun becomes a Red Giant and loses mass and gravity. It has also been proposed that if these planets harbored life prior to ejection, microbial life may continue to survive deep beneath the surface even after the planet goes “rogue.”

Once the huge, hydrogen/helium entity can be more closely pinpointed, it will be up to the International Astronomical Union to decide whether it can be classified as a planet or not, and if it should be considered the 9th planet (since Pluto was demoted). That decision will rest in part on if the planet formed in this solar system or is a rogue planet from another solar system.

The torches and pitchforks crowd, led by Phil Plait claims its not so. But then, Plait’s most famous discovery was finding one of his old socks when it went missing after a spin in his dryer.

[ journalofcosmology]