The Tenth Planet

A new discovery in the depths of our solar system raised questions about what makes a planet a planet, so it might be true that we do have a tenth planet, but then again, maybe it isn’t. Ever since the discovery of Neptune in 1845 there’s been scientific speculation that there must be another planet beyond this orbit, so the research began in the early 20th century with Percival Lovett’s obsession to find, “Planet X,” and scientists have been obsessed with finding it ever since.


Lowell hypothesized the existence of Planet X due to the need to explain apparent discrepancies in the orbits of the gas giants, Uranus and Neptune. He assumed that the gravity of a large unseen planet could have upset Uranus enough to explain the irregularities, and when Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto in 1930, this initially appeared to validate the hypothesis, so Pluto was considered to be the ninth planet.

Still, in 1978 Pluto was found to be too small for its gravity to affect the gas giants at all. This confusing aspect of what constitutes a planet resulted in a brief search for a tenth planet, once again, but the search was abandoned again in 1990, due to a study of measurements made by the Voyager 2 spacecraft.

What they found was the fact that the irregularities noted in the orbit of Uranus were due to a slight overestimation of Neptune’s mass, so after 1992 the discovery of numerous small icy objects within or near Pluto’s orbit led to a big debate which demanded an answer to the question, “Should Pluto remain a planet or should it have it’s own classification?” And with that fact, we are back to where The International Astronomical Union reclassified Pluto and its largest neighbors as, “dwarf planets,” which means we were back to having only eight planets in the solar system, right? Maybe not.

Since then, the concept of Planet X has been revised by a number of astronomers to explain other anomalies noted in the outer solar system. Evidently, it’s become a popular thing for science to use the term, “Planet X,” as a way to name any undiscovered planet in the outer Solar System, regardless of its gravitational effect, so is the new discovery a planet or isn’t it?


Apparently, scientist could never decide how to classify this, “thing,” they found in the depths of the solar system, but it’s reported to be the largest discovery of what some say is the first sun’s planet ever discovered in the past 75 years, but then again, how can anyone say they discovered something they can’t name?

My research told me they say, “The planet is presently more than three times farther than Pluto,” but in the next line they describe what they previously described as a planet to be, “the most distant object ever seen in the solar system.” I suppose you could say that the scientists of today are as confused as I’ve become on trying to find any evidence that there really is a, “Planet X.” Still whatever this object is was apparently discovered on January 5, 2005 by some guys named Michael E. Brown, Chadwick Trujillo and David Rabinowitz. Since then, Michael Brown of the California Institute of Technology and his colleagues were forced to announce the discovery on July 29, 2005 after someone broke into their computer and the break-in raised the threat that someone else might get credit for the discovery.

At the time of the announcement, the scientists said they’d discovered, “the planet,” on January 8, but the fact remains that the object in the solar system was discovered on January 5. Still, they apologized. Through his web site, which I assume had been broken into, Brown wrote, “It was caused because of the craziness surrounding the first day of the announcement. We didn’t have time to check our notes and apparently our memories are not as good as they used to be.” Crazy? Maybe. This just doesn’t look to me like a great way to scientifically explain a new discovery, that no one can name.


They say the name of this discovery took so long to decide because the name depended upon whether this thing in the solar system could be classified as a planet at all, and although the tenth, “thing,” is larger than Pluto, a planet it seems, some astronomers question Pluto’s status as a planet too, so what were they to do? If Pluto is not a planet, then how can this new discovery be referred to as a planet? Apparently Pluto shrunk, and as it turned out, scientists thought it was bigger than it really is. So what? Your guess is as good as mine, but the good news is they finally made up their minds.

Whatever Planet X is continues to swing slowly around the Sun and its orbit is elliptical and carries it from 38.2 times the Sun and Earth’s distance. It’s average distance from the Sun is 67.9 times the Sun to Earth distance, but it’s currently near the far point of its orbit. Because its orbit is so long and due to the fact that it moves so slowly along the orbit, this new, “thing,” takes a long time to revolve around the Sun, which by the way is approximately 559 years. Some were beginning to think science here on Earth would take that long to figure out what exactly it is, but the good news is, we finally have a name for this mysterious discovery!


They finally came up with the name of, “Eris,” to explain and resolve, once and for all, that it’s the largest, “dwarf planet,” known to man and was, in fact, discovered in an ongoing survey at Palomar Observatory’s Samuel Oschin telescope by astronomers, Mike Brown, Chad Trujillo, and David Rabinowita, who, if you will recall, are those scientific guys who apologized for not remembering which date they discovered the long sought after tenth planet in our solar system.


If you’re like me and wondering how they came up with the name of, “Eris,” I’ll explain. You see, In Greek mythology, Eris is the goddess of warfare and strife. Apparently she mythically manipulates jealousy and envy to cause fighting and anger among men, and when the parents of the Greek hero, Achilles, Peleus and Thetis got married, all the gods with the exception of Eris were invited. Enraged at being slighted and excluded, she spitefully caused a quarrel among the goddesses that led to the Trojan war, and in the astronomical world, Eris did the same thing to them, and so, the mystery of the name and face of the discovered, “thing,” is finally resolved.


To conclude, I’ll update you one more time and then I plan to get on with my life, which I might suggest all those scientists do too. You see, since Eris stirred up so much trouble among the international astronomical world and led them to, “a raucous meeting,” of the IAU in Prague, and after all that time and effort, in the end, Pluto was demoted to a dwarf planet too, leaving the solar system with only eight planets holding, “The Planet ,” status. As of this date in 2008, they are trying to decide what to name this new Eris, the dwarf planet’s moon, but to conclude, you can assume there will be no such thing as a tenth planet discovery until when and if scientists can make up their minds exactly what a planet is and isn’t.

For the sources of this and more information on the tenth planet, see these sites: