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. Jamie

    Some of you need to up your dosage. Nothing is going to happen 2012.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Baz

    Does a brown star make a brown sound?

    February 15, 2011 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Supe

    Read enough!! Charley Brown would only exclaim "Good Grief" and end it all.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. buffoon

    Once we worshiped Ra, Ar hasn't been happy and kept hiding from us!

    February 15, 2011 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. commongood

    No wonder those big beasts got whacked to their extinction by the blitz from the plain sight. Current day Earthlings won't fare any better!

    February 15, 2011 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. dave

    Nibura?

    February 15, 2011 at 10:38 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Old Castro

    This is not new news. HP Lovecraft spoke of the planet Vhoorl from wince the great Cathulhu came, and now waits dreaming in his house at R'lyeh. Perhaps we have found it.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:39 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. tobstercon

    I hate to say it, but I have read enough of your comments to determine that, there are a lot of people who like to spout off with out having the slightest clue of what they are talking about. Any one who has said that this mass is to far for our suns light to reach it is a complete idiot. Light has no bounds, it can reach infinately, there fore the light is reaching this mass. Maybe the mass is so large the tragectory of the reflection is so wide we don't have the devices to read it. That last part would be a theory not a statement of fact like my statement of light travel.

    February 15, 2011 at 10:39 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. CanUfixit

    Nobody wants mass hysteria here or jesting.... I prefer the true facts about this. I doubt if this giant death star was just recently discovered, as usual, the public is the last to know. If it exists there's nothing we can do about it, nobody can fix it here on earth. Time travel theory has now been proven, maybe that can help, also sending a few selected potential survivors out in the universe looking for a compatable planet with ours. Things look quite grim on this earth for us all, except NASA and those who can afford to space travel. Compassionate Aliens with higher intelligence than humans could be our last hope......

    February 15, 2011 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. unafy

    Yes, But why this planet should be called tyche planet, because it has been discovered 6000 years a go by Sumerian and its name is Nibiru!!

    February 15, 2011 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. InsuranceAgent

    My only question is – when is it due to come back around... Do i need to step up on my insurance policy when this brown dwarf flings it's poo at us again?

    February 15, 2011 at 10:53 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. pdawgs22

    there is something massive between my thighs!

    February 15, 2011 at 11:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Hankster

    I call BS on this theory. 15,000 AU is about 1/4 light year. In the random motion of the stars, we would have been approached at least that closely by another star, many times over, in the last 4.5 billion years. Only 1 of those many close encounters would have to be in the general direction of the brown dwarf from the sun to eject it completely from the solar system. If the sun ever had a brown dwarf companion, it is long gone from the solar system.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:06 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. SoonyCaboomy

    I prefer to get true facts from a proper source.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • brt

      that's the best comment on here.

      February 16, 2011 at 1:27 am | Report abuse |
  15. brt

    why does everyone think that the existence of a brown dwarf at the outermost bounds of the Oort cloud is a reason to think that 'doomsday' is coming? If the structure of our solar system has been around for 4 billion years and earth is still here, then I don't think we have much to worry about. Given the 2 component system of a brown dwarf's gravitational force and the sun's gravitational force, the theory is not B.S. it's pretty likely. At the same time, the difference between a scientific theory and crazy religious myth is that in science you make a theory and then prove or disprove it with evidence...so until we have further evidence, chill out.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Robert

      If by crazy religious myth you're referring to the end of the world as the Bible teaches it, Jesus says it will come like a thief in the night. So if you're one of those "crazy" people that believe what the Bible teaches, you can automatically discount any theory that insists on a certain date and method; it would only be right by sheer coincidence.

      February 16, 2011 at 1:04 am | Report abuse |
    • brt

      I meant the theory that Tyche exists. not the doomsday crap.

      February 16, 2011 at 1:19 am | Report abuse |
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