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. Listening...

    So.......are you one of the 144 thousand???

    February 15, 2011 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
  2. LeSigh

    http://www.space.com/10863-mystery-planet-tyche-debate.html

    February 15, 2011 at 11:25 pm | Report abuse |
  3. K

    So Hubble can't spot any of those mentioned planets but however it spotted redshifted to visible clusters of galaxies billions of light years away. I am puzzeled !!!!!!

    February 15, 2011 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aaron

      For the 1 trillionth time: if this object EVEN EXISTS, it is at least 1,394,338,314,000 miles away from the sun. At that distance it is not receiving enough light to even reflect any back our way. All we could hope to do is use infrared telescopes to attempt a search. Even then the odds are not in are favor. We have only observed and cataloged MAYBE 5% of the sky – for as long as we have existed as a species, and that number is not going anywhere very fast. Our minds are absolutely incapable of actually comprehending the size of the universe in which we live. This is evolutionary. Numbers this huge have no bearing on our survival. We can grasp 10,20, even 1000 of something – but when you get up to A(g64, g64) our minds simply cant grasp the slightest concept. So for you to make the statement you just did is not only arrogant, but downright ignorant.

      February 16, 2011 at 2:04 am | Report abuse |
  4. Suchi

    The Oort cloud contains the fifthhhhhh eeeelement

    February 15, 2011 at 11:37 pm | Report abuse |
  5. angelo

    its nibiru!!!!

    February 15, 2011 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse |
  6. roughbeast

    are you suggesting coconuts migrate?

    February 15, 2011 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
  7. angelo

    its planet nibiru!!!!

    February 15, 2011 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
  8. The kights that say nee

    Yes. yes we've heard the rest of you about Brown Dwarfs, possilbe earth destruction, 2012, solar plains, etc,etc,etc. but the questions still remain; what of swallows and coconuts? Prioritys people...prioritys! Oh and that bird is definately dead! I'm certain of it. Spam anyone?

    February 16, 2011 at 12:12 am | Report abuse |
  9. LUCUS

    Get the real truth about the brown dwarf at http://www.rabbithole2.com

    February 16, 2011 at 12:19 am | Report abuse |
  10. xanax

    Beyond all the witty bantering posts and the interesting article itself. I hope that funding for NASA is increased. To expand our understanding of the universe. While I like mystery, I prefer facts. Thanks CNN.

    February 16, 2011 at 12:44 am | Report abuse |
  11. Batsinbellfreee

    What I hate about Dec 21, 2012... I'll have to find a new calander. Maybe one with puppies this time.

    February 16, 2011 at 12:48 am | Report abuse |
  12. samantha

    nibiru is coming!!

    February 16, 2011 at 1:01 am | Report abuse |
  13. Tycho Brahe

    How can you people be so insensitive? He's not a "brown dwarf". He's a brown little person.

    February 16, 2011 at 1:01 am | Report abuse |
  14. Companion Star

    I don't know much about astrophysics, but I did read an obscure book of pseudo-science so I feel pretty confident that I have a right to say whatever I want on this post. The book was called Lost Star of Myth and Time by Walter Cruttengen and is at least an interesting read. I possess neither the memory nor the eloquence to give a just report on the book. However, the main hypothesis stated that our Sun is in a binary orbit with some other large mass object. Some of the theories include Jovian masses or more likely a dense brown dwarf star that would have a somewhat noticeable gravitational effect our our Sun. The book relies heavily on observations from ancient civilizations that speak of a companion to our sun and that the orbital period from periapsis to periapsis is roughly 24,000 years, which also happens to be equal to the precession of the equinox. The theory is that the dance between our Sun and whatever its theoretical companion may be, causes our solar system, including Earth, to wobble through space, perceived as precession.

    The book also goes on to say that the binary orbit is responsible for the rising and the falling of the ages. As we get closer to the supposed companion, something happens (maybe electromagnetic or whatever) that elevates the capacities of man. The magnetism possibly activates our DNA or our unused brain or what have you and we begin to realize our full potential more and more until periapsis, when we are closest to the object and are capable of living long lives and understanding the deepest of the Universe's secrets. Then, the object starts to move away again and our new "powers" begin to fade. Sounds crazy sure, but many civilizations spoke of a previous golden age and of the ages in general.

    If I remember correctly, the ancient knowledge passed down from the Vedic Rishis in India called the ages, Yugas. When we are farthest from the object, we are in Kali Yuga (stone age) and do not receive any of its influence. As we move closer we enter the something Yuga. I know there is a Treta Yuga in there, but the basic point is that there are four yugas, or four ages which the Greeks called the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, the Silver Age, and the Gold Age. Per the vishis, we are just entering the second yuga (bronze age) and did so about the time of the enlightenment. During this age we will begin to understand the subtle forces (electricity and magnetism). Unfortunately, the age lasts for, I believe, 2,400 years. So we got a while before we are godly. (1st Yuga – 1200 years, 2nd Yuga – 2400 years, 3rd Yuga – 3600 years, 4th Yuga 4800 years for a total of 12,000 years, then we are closest to the object and it again begins to move away and we go downward through the Yugas back to the 1st when we are farthest away.)

    Anyhow, take it how you want to, but the book was really interesting even if one isn't inclined to such fringe science. For me, it was some great brain food and recommend it to all. And I full expect to receive a barrage of posts questioning my intellect and perhaps even my right to exist. Fun to think about though, isn't it?

    February 16, 2011 at 1:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      You lost me at "pseudo-science".

      February 16, 2011 at 1:06 am | Report abuse |
    • brt

      If he lost you at "pseudo-science" then you missed out on an interesting and well thought comment that humorously mocks itself.

      February 16, 2011 at 1:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Sunspot

      There is no evidence to support any of this. Pure fiction.

      February 16, 2011 at 7:55 am | Report abuse |
  15. Tycho Brahe

    Everyone is familiar with pseudo-science, but it's better known under the name "global warming".

    February 16, 2011 at 1:18 am | Report abuse |
    • brt

      do you know what global dimming is? do you know why the Stradivarius violin has such a unique tone? do you know what causes snow? I'm mocking you because I know from your comment that you don't. I know from your comment that you know nothing about thermodynamic systems or physics and you most likely live in the south.

      February 16, 2011 at 1:25 am | Report abuse |
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