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.

Post by:
Filed under: Science • Space
soundoff (1,170 Responses)
  1. Bob The Alien

    OMG it's Planet X !!!

    February 15, 2011 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
  2. Eric

    Let's call it NIBIRU.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
  3. Tony D

    The use of the mass extinction link should not be thrown about so carelessly. Our youth are convinced that the end of the world will be in their lifetime and that is have a greatly negative impact on society as a whole.The very idea of a possible mass extinction induces panic. Research, theorize, discover...but do it responsibly!

    February 15, 2011 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
    • kso

      @ TonyD
      "Our youth are convinced that the end of the world will be in their lifetime"

      must live in bumble.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      @TonyD How does one discover irresponsibly?

      February 15, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • tjc360

      I was sure we would be nuked when I was a kid, now whats scares me, is the internet, think about it if, that goes down, we are all f!c%ed.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bob

    This proves there are ALIENS!!!

    February 15, 2011 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
  5. @Tony

    Ever since 100 ACE, people have had that fear. What's different now?

    February 15, 2011 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
  6. kso

    creationists. they're as funny as Jehovah's witnesses with their prophecy based end of the world musings. The end is near! lolz

    February 15, 2011 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
    • C. Smith

      Umm, creationists aren't known for their end of the world musings. The closest we get to it is ' "no man knows the hour or the day" so quit guessing, it'll get here when it gets here'.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'Umm, creationists aren't known for their end of the world musings. The closest we get to it is ' "no man knows the hour or the day" so quit guessing, it'll get here when it gets here'.'
      Oh I dont know, you get plenty of people claiming we are in the last days and all the signs fit, and I would lay money down on the majority of them being creationists.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • james

      good to see you're getting his name out there for more to see and want to know about and than come ask about.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      @james
      Who's name? Is it the name that not be said? The name of that whom is riding this mysterious planetary beast to our inevitable destruction? Is it the home of the Sith???

      February 15, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • kso

      @ C.Smith you sure do read more gooder. totally missed it. i can has cheeseburger?

      February 15, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'i can has cheeseburger?'
      only if you can find meh bucket

      February 15, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Wzrd1

    Every few years this pops up, regardless of a lack of perturbation of any observed planetary orbits or observed cloud of displaced objects.
    Every few years, it gets shelved, as not fitting observed facts.
    And it rears its ugly head again, typically with a new name.
    That all said, it IS good to keep looking. If the cyclic hypothetical planet still isn't found, they always DO find something ELSE new.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Denizen Kate

      Finally, a comment based on logic and historical facts. Thank you, Wzrd1. I do remember reading about "Nemesis" years ago. Nothing was proven, but they did make other discoveries as a result of that search for answers, so it wasn't a total waste of time. We'll wait and see what comes of this study of "Tyche." Meanwhile, the comments here from the lunatic fringe provide much entertainment.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  8. Beyond2012

    Hey everyone could this be the infamous large bodied object that is causing the major storms around the world.
    and headed toward us in 2012 passing between the sun and earth better known as planet X. The possibility
    of the crossing is very interesting to me. As you know NASA with the help of IRAS in 1984 found a large object
    that appeared to be on cycle and seems to be approaching us. Also the Vatican church has also employed a 6 million plus dollar scope on Mt. Graham in the desert of Arizona to track large objects in the sky. Things are getting more interesting as race toward 2012 and beyond.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
    • @B2012

      Only that the whole 2012 thing is preposterous since we don't have an accurate formula to convert the "doomsday" calendar to our own.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
    • C. Smith

      No. This couldn't be that. This is out in the Oort Cloud, and would have to achieve a significant fraction of the speed of light (the inner shell of the Oort Cloud is hypothesized to be about a light-year away from the Sun) to get here by then. Since it's a planet or a star, not an alien spacecraft, that's not likely. Also, anything that massive passing that close to the inner solar system would do a LOT more than mess with weather. It'd throw planets into the Sun or out of the solar system. Thus it's orbit can't take it anywhere near us, or we wouldn't be here today to study it.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      @B2012
      The vatican church? Which one is that? 2012 will come and go just like the armageddon of 2000 did.....

      February 15, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Nemesis

    Stars!!!! You know Nemesis is lurking out there, and he will kick down the door and yell "STARS!!!!!!" and you better run like heck!!!! Nemesis is lurking out there!

    February 15, 2011 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
    • carlos

      Dude i already took care of him, but i had alittle help from chris and claire. lol.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Bob

    The world isn't going to end in 2012 not naturally anyway. But if it does it will be because we destroyed it oursolves.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Beyond2012

      HI Bob when the subject 0f 2012 is brought up no one is talking about the "end of the world". The world will never end according ancient texts. Where just saying 2012 we will see interesting things happing in our world. 2012 is not a count down it is a count up toward the future.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  11. the dude

    To believe or disbelieve in a god or gods doesn't preclude a belief in science. If we take it that a god exists then there's no reason to automatically trash science. For me at least. I don't understand why people need to be so closed minded about it all. If I can explain something 2 ways it doesn't necessarily mean that one of them is wrong. If I say that God created the universe then why can't I say that it works a certain way also?

    If we use the analogy of a computer programmer: The programmer writes the source code and executes that code within a system. That program written within it will behave using the rules and processes defined. If that program is 'sentient' then that program will begin to search out the ways and means within itself and learn about the system it is running in. Simply because it does so doesn't disprove the existence of the programmer. It just means that the program understands pieces of its own coding.

    I'm not arguing for or against a god or 'programmer' I'm just saying that to me at least there's no reason to deny a god simply because we can explain a bit of how our universe works. I never understood the distinction there. Seems like a narrow view of it just for the sake of argument.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Appreciate

      that post. I learned something new today!

      February 15, 2011 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Dr. Who

      And who created the "programmer"?.. And who created the creator of the programmer?

      February 15, 2011 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Sunspot

      The essential "problem" here is that it's scientifically impossible to disprove the existence of god. Or anything, for that matter. It's called a negative proof. Not possible. It's also generally impossible to "prove" anything scientifically, "proof" is a term that only applies to pure mathematics. Science is about evidence, and when enough evidence is gathered to support a "theory" then it is considered to be "true". Further evidence is always sought, and it is possible for a single piece of evidence to overturn what is considered "truth". This seldom happens any more as we acquire more data about the world, but scientists have very "open minds", as long as you provide them with evidence.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Nice

      Very nice post. Hopefully some of the single-minded, stubborn people on here will gain a little insight and think about this.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
    • epdemer

      That has to be one of the most clear-headed, thought-provoking, and wisdom-based comments I think I have ever read on this site. Thank you for supplying a disciplined approach to the discussion.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
    • C. Smith

      Dr. Who,
      Cause and effect is a fundamental principle of our universe, however theorists talking about multiverse possibilities (i.e. alternate universes) note that nothing fundamental to our universe is necessarily similarly fundamental outside it, and that includes cause and effect. Thus if God created the universe, and thus exists outside of the universe, He doesn't necessarily follow cause and effect. Or time, for that matter. Or space.

      Sunspot,
      You are correct that science can't prove anything, but you're wrong that it can't disprove anything. The problem is that ideas like God and the invisible pink unicorns aren't scientific theories, because they aren't testable. A scientific theory can be tested, and thus disproven. God can't.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Ruth

      Dr. Who, there's so much we don't understand. We don't understand infinitey, or quantum mechanics, or wave particle duality. We can do the math, we know it exists but we don't understand it. So just pointing out a paradox does not make the paradox a fallacy. I'm an Agnostic and I find Atheists to be just as close minded and illogical as religious zealots.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'I'm just saying that to me at least there's no reason to deny a god simply because we can explain a bit of how our universe works'
      By the same token you dont dismiss science just because it doesnt tally with what a book tells you.
      And you certainly don't start claiming magical forces must have done it just because science cannot explain something at this time.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Sunspot

      C Smith: But you're using the "P" word, "Proof". How could you prove that there are no invisible pink unicorns? I'm not sure how you'd demonstrate that they DO exist either, being invisible and all. But the burden is on the shoulders of the beleivers of IPU's to present their evidence.
      Seems to me that being untestable doesn't remove a "theory" from the realm of science. The concept that there are multiple universes is being given serious consideration, but it is at the present time untestable. It may remain that way forever, or somebody may come up with something someday. We'll just have to wait and see.
      Oh, and thanks for above kudos. Maybe I'll chime in here more often. You may not like it. Don't get me going on oil and energy...

      February 15, 2011 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Toddicus

      I get it now, we've basically been programmed into a giant MMO and each universe is it's own server, all being played by this God/programmer and his buddies. I hope we can research space travel before the Andromeda server so they can't come colonize us and kill us all.

      February 15, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
  12. DarkSide1

    fire when ready

    February 15, 2011 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
  13. Han

    You're all clear kid! Now let's blow this thing and go home!

    February 15, 2011 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
  14. David York

    There is as yet no firm evidence that this object, or anything like it, even exists. This data is very prelimary. Much more research and measurement-taking needs to be done before we know anything "for sure". These two "researchers" are jumping the gun, as is the media. Shocking!!

    February 15, 2011 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • wary doubter

      Exactly, and how do they know its orbit is 27 million years if they're not even sure it's there?

      February 15, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
  15. publius enigma

    A "pattern" of mass extinctions? Anyone want to enlighten me here? I count the dinosaurs, and thats the only mass extinction Im aware of. Would need like 4 more mass extinctions at least to establish a "pattern".

    February 15, 2011 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Sunspot

      There have been other mass extinctions. You could enlighten yourself by looking it up!

      February 15, 2011 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Geologist

      Perhaps you should do a little research..there have been many mass extinctions, some far worse than the dinosaurs.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Cedar Rapids

      I think they currently have recorded 5 mass extinctions.

      February 15, 2011 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Google It

      Just Google "Mass Extinctions" and you'll find it...

      February 15, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35