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. Shepard

    " Heck with this, I am going to " OMEGA " for a Drink !

    February 15, 2011 at 9:13 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Russ

    I think it will be nothing more than just a brown dwarf. there's be zero significance about it but a cool discovery.

    February 15, 2011 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Michael

    I've been studying the sky for about 15 years, have 3 different telescopes for the job. Been following all the recent and past "events" around our fine globe. (yup, theres some unexplainables out there)
    Fiding an giant brown dwarf is'nt all that strange, as technology advance so do we, and our ability to look into space, and detect otherwise hidden objects advances aswell.
    It dosn't mean an past-dead star is flying into earth and destroying us all.

    February 15, 2011 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • brt

      I'm on the same page. People think that we see the entire spherical perspective of the universe from our planet or its orbit because we have satellites and telescopes. They don't realize that you have to focus on a very, VERY, small patch of the sky and once you zoom in you get a smaller field of view. Isn't the percentage of the Universe that we've observed and cataloged still something like 6%? that's from the existence of mankind looking at the stars and taking notes until today; still in the single digits.

      February 16, 2011 at 1:31 am | Report abuse |
  4. someguy

    This is a sign of the end of times!!!! Look into a bible, go online and Google it!!! Genesis 3:16!!
    This is what we were told about by God!!!!! It's coming and everyone is too blind to see it!!!!
    Please, Genesis 3:16! Read it and see!!!!

    February 15, 2011 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • someguy's fool

      You got me. Did you pick out the verse at random?

      February 16, 2011 at 12:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      "To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.""

      LOLWUT?

      Did you mean John 3:16?

      February 16, 2011 at 12:57 am | Report abuse |
  5. christy

    ya'll are just silly...i guess that may be a way of dealing with today's times....but, really?

    February 15, 2011 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
  6. christy

    I guess I am holding out for the Jedi then?

    February 15, 2011 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
  7. christy

    Just to comment on that ... the boy scouts just did a big star gazing thing....i am pretty sure that that professor would have mentioned a new planet....he was very opinionated about Pluto being ruled out as a planet.

    February 15, 2011 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
  8. JesusNeedsABreak

    "could also explain a pattern of mass extinctions on Earth"
    ha Ha hA HA!

    February 15, 2011 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Limbaugh is a liberal

    But what does Palin say about it? Something isn't news until we hear Palin react! Come on CNN, can't you call her and ask her about it, like you always do?

    February 15, 2011 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Brett

    You'd think that a brown dwarf this size would have easily been identified by changes in the orbits of our outer planets.

    February 15, 2011 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Anonymous

    Nibiru is coming!

    February 15, 2011 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mike Papadopoulos

    That's so dumb! There is no planet bigger than the earth other than the sun!

    February 15, 2011 at 10:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      The sun's a star, not a planet. Also, you fail basic science. Mars and Venus are about the same size as Earth. Mercuty is smaller. I think Pluto is smaller. Jupiter and Saturn are huge in comparison, Neptune too, I think. I'm going by memory, but I could google it. So could you, try it.

      Also, by the way the 9 planets in our solar system revolve around the sun. Everything does not revolve around the earth. We've known that for hundreds of years but not everyone believed it at first. I just thought maybe you hadn't heard...

      February 16, 2011 at 1:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Aaron

      Robert. do not go correcting people, who are obviously trolling, if you have no idea what your talking about. There are 8 planets. Pluto is a dwarf planet – one of many. Just ignore the trolls.......

      February 16, 2011 at 1:50 am | Report abuse |
  13. Paul

    brown dwarf? that's nothing. heck, what's really scary is that HUGE greyish brown globe behind the sun.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marcus

      What are you talking about?

      February 16, 2011 at 6:51 am | Report abuse |
  14. Luther

    Everyone here is just a bunch of stupid ignorants, if cnn puts this discussion board open is to know and hear your
    opinions about this subject, stupid ignorants, and you people call ur selfs smart americans lol.....
    stop posting stupid comments people, think before writing something here....

    February 15, 2011 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aaron

      Luther...its the internet. No one thinks out here.

      February 16, 2011 at 1:52 am | Report abuse |
  15. Gimble

    2012 is sounding very plausible now.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sweetenedtea

      It sure does. So do 2013, 2014 and 2027, among other years that sound quite plausible. In fact, most calendar years sound like they exist. Well, except for 1994...that was a totally implausible year. And 2019 sounds pretty unlikely too.

      February 16, 2011 at 12:25 am | Report abuse |
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