Scientists, telescope hunt massive hidden object in space
Some scientists think a brown dwarf or gas giant bigger than Jupiter could be at the outer reaches of the solar system. In this image showing relative size, the white object at the upper left edge represents the sun.
February 15th, 2011
09:03 AM ET

Scientists, telescope hunt massive hidden object in space

You know how you sometimes can sense that something is present even though you can't see it? Well, astronomers are getting that feeling about a giant, hidden object in space.

And when we say giant, we mean GIANT.

Evidence is mounting that either a brown dwarf star or a gas giant planet is lurking at the outermost reaches of our solar system, far beyond Pluto. The theoretical object, dubbed Tyche, is estimated to be four times the size of Jupiter and 15,000 times farther from the sun than Earth, according to a story in the British paper The Independent.

Astrophysicists John Matese and Daniel Whitmire from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette think data from NASA's infrared space telescope WISE will confirm Tyche's existence and location within two years.

The presence of such a massive object in the solar system's far-flung Oort Cloud could explain a barrage of comets from an unexpected direction, according to a December article at Space.com.

Its 27 million-year orbit could also explain a pattern of mass extinctions on Earth, scientists say.

Brown dwarfs are cold "failed" stars; their dimness and lack of heat radiation can make them hard to detect. Gas giants are huge planets like Saturn, Jupiter and Neptune that are made up of gases and may lack a solid surface like Earth's.

Whitmire told The Independent that Tyche will probably be composed of hydrogen and helium and have colorful spots, bands and clouds like Jupiter.

"You'd also expect it to have moons," he said. "All the outer planets have them."

Tyche was first hypothesized in 1984 as Nemesis, a dark companion star to the sun. It's been the subject of astronomical research and debate ever since. In July, another Space.com article said the celestial evidence suggests Tyche could not possibly exist.

To distinguish it from the Nemesis star theory, Matese and Whitmire are calling their object Tyche, after the good sister of the goddess Nemesis in Greek mythology.

Their research is published in Icarus, the International Journal of Solar System Studies.

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Filed under: Science • Space
soundoff (1,170 Responses)
  1. JL

    So what is the evidence of it??? Why leave that part out? So all you're saying is scientists suspect there is a massive object in our solar system. It may be within the Oort cloud, which coincidently no one has seen or knows exists either. Wow...that's amazing.

    February 15, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  2. steve.steve

    Does anybody remember "The Fifth element"?

    What was the "EVIL" thing coming to get us!

    February 15, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Suchi

      The fiffthhhhhh Element.....

      February 15, 2011 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • peebee

      Quintessence?

      February 15, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
  3. RajMann

    Have you ever felt like you needed to release a "Gas Giant", but it ended up being a "Brown Dwarf"? I hate when that happens.

    February 15, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hitchhiker

      Yeah, what a mess that was.

      February 15, 2011 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      Only after eating a meal that resembled an Oort cloud....

      February 15, 2011 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. KAT

    I'd be more interested in finding out how this object, real or not, can explain a pattern of mass extinctions on this planet and whether it can cause more. Whether or not its out there won't change the short term future. If it can be proven to exist, great, we've got another object in our solar system. At worse, it will cause about as much stir as Pluto losing its status as a planet. I'm not too worried. Not exactly life changing for anyone other than the scientists studying it.

    February 15, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hitchhiker

      Well it could eject a large body from the Oort cloud to strike the Earth but not all mass extinctions have been caused by Asteroid impact.

      February 15, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Mickey

    Check out humanimalien on facebook, read,pray, fast... Don't stop.... Bless.

    February 15, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mr. Bones

    Here I was hoping it would turn out to be Planet Claire.

    With the pink air, you know.

    February 15, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pinky

      Maybe it was a rock lobster.

      February 16, 2011 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
  7. Olias

    RonD, I like your idea of the second sun. Its about time we should get another direction to point our solar panels!

    February 15, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Scientist1029187

    WOW. Thats interesting, lucky us humans are near contact with other alien races that will indeed protect us if indeed we humans ever come in contact with any danger. They are the protecters of this Earth and will aid our civilization should anything happen.

    February 15, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Frank Mondana

    Kids, get over it. The 2 guys mentioned in the article are about the only 2 scientists who see something.

    February 15, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Shep Leo

    Its probably a Mass Relay!!!

    February 15, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ELH

    Find it, please , and change the name to Pluto.

    February 15, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hitchhiker

      Pluto 2.0

      February 15, 2011 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      Maybe Goofy instead?

      February 15, 2011 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Shep Leo

    Its a REAPER!!!!

    February 15, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Shep Leo

    ok but really
    Having a star or a hot Jupitar so close to are Solar System can mean only one thing... the possibilities of a mini-black hole existing close to our Solar System just got bigger.

    February 15, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hitchhiker

      I keep a mini black hole in my basement. You never know when one will come in handy.

      February 15, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pinky

      I have a portable hole I bought from Bugs Bunny.

      February 16, 2011 at 9:15 am | Report abuse |
  14. Cartman42

    That's no brown dwarf... It's a space station. Chewie, get us out of here!

    February 15, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chewie

      Waaaaaah, raaaaah-waaa, wraaaaaahhhhh!
      Chewie, that's disgusting! She's Luke's sister, Dude!

      February 16, 2011 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |
  15. STEVE D

    This is great stuff, the discovery of a Cosmic Bowling Ball that's going to Mow us down, i wonder how many boards
    to the right this thing is going to start from, so i can move to the other side of the lane. Maybe it will be a gutter ball
    and the party will go on. We better send up Bruce Willis & Mr. Duvall and drill some holes in that Sucker and light
    that Candle Baby....hahahahahaha... god you people are so serious take a pill...and let's party !!!!

    February 15, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
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