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. Companion Star

    I also refuse to be shot at Wal-Mart

    February 16, 2011 at 1:18 am | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Marc

    I guess Zecharia Setchin was correct after all with his theory of an outermost planet or body he called Nibiru.

    February 16, 2011 at 1:34 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Companion Star

      He based his theory on ancient Sumerian knowledge...I think. There are many questions regarding his deciphering practices, but yes, it appears he may have gotten that one correct.

      February 16, 2011 at 1:37 am | Report abuse |
  3. whoviangirl

    First of all, to The Knights That Say Nee, I hate spam! Second of all, it's not a brown dwarf, it's the Emperor Dalek and his army.

    February 16, 2011 at 2:03 am | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Nickey

    "So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known." Mat. 10:26. I'm not religious so please don't attack me. We are living in Revelations. More and more things will start to reveal themselves so brace yourselves. Those of you that believe in science and technology, I commend you. It is through you that the unknown will reveal itself and make itself known to everyone. Your are the instrument of revelation. Intelligent life acknowledges, respects the unknown and is humbled by it. So even if you don't believe there's a God. Trust me, you will at least be very much humbled by the universe. We have no control over the universe. To solely rely on science for answers being that science has only proven maybe less than 5% of the universe, would be ignorant. Don't stop at science for answers. Seek EVERYWHERE. It's time to reconcile science and spirituality. Seek peace and balance.

    February 16, 2011 at 3:03 am | Report abuse | Reply
  5. TrixieTheDuck

    So, this gaseous mega-giant is lurking around the outer edges of our solar system and hurling comets at us, eh? Maybe the other gaseous giants (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune) will protect us for a while... unless the cowards have already cut some back-room deal with this beast, against their less-impressively sized terrestrial brethren (who have suffered the sting of their relentless condescension in good humor for lo these many aeons – but for how much longer...?). Convene the war council with Mars, Venus and Mercury now before its too late! We must form an alliance with Jupiter's moons and outflank the red-eyed beast. Fortify the Asteroid Belt! Re-charge the Van Allen Belt! To arms! To arms!

    February 16, 2011 at 3:19 am | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Jenny

    Galactus??!

    February 16, 2011 at 3:26 am | Report abuse | Reply
  7. B

    Nibiru??

    February 16, 2011 at 3:58 am | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Singh

    Just another ridiculous theory scientist have come up with to distract people from the truth. Sure it might exist but making assumptions about it's make up or claims of what it may be or could be is just out right abuse toward weak minded people. Scientist through around theories like there candy. Don’t buy in to this BS people.

    February 16, 2011 at 4:06 am | Report abuse | Reply
  9. hero

    One word: NIBIRU

    February 16, 2011 at 4:17 am | Report abuse | Reply
  10. tamronica

    This article is not new. Appeared on http://www.astrobio.net/exclusive/3427/getting-wise-about-nemesis in March 2010 and giving more details, nasa involved. Funny cnn reports mid february one year later. Carnival lurking behind the brown dwarf?

    February 16, 2011 at 4:31 am | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Becca

    It's so mind-blowing to think about mass extinctions. Human existence is so short in the realm of time...what is time? What is space? AHHH. Someday, all "this" won't be here. Our computers, technology, fashion, family stories, art work, all of our progress will gone, nothing, like it never existed. CRAZY!!!

    February 16, 2011 at 4:38 am | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Vartkes Nadjarian

    Maybe its waiting to show itself in December 21 2012

    February 16, 2011 at 5:01 am | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Phoenix59

    Well, let's see.

    To try to put this to scale: If we built a model in which the Sun and Earth were one foot apart (1 foot = 1 AU), the Sun would be a little more than 1/10 of an inch across - about the size of a BB - and the planets would be pretty much invisible. The Earth and Moon would be so close together that if you could even see them, which you couldn't, you'd have trouble seeing the gap between them - 0.03".

    Neptune would orbit 30 feet from the sun.

    The Kuiper Belt would start there and extend out to 55 feet away.

    The Oort Cloud would begin somewhere between a half mile and a mile from the sun, and would extend out to somewhere between 18 and 36 miles from our BB of a Sun.

    And the mystery brown dwarf or gas giant? About three miles from the Sun.

    Space is big.

    February 16, 2011 at 5:34 am | Report abuse | Reply
  14. 21k

    it's gawd!

    February 16, 2011 at 6:17 am | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Katie

    What isn't a mystery about space?? What, we humans KNOW everything now??

    February 16, 2011 at 6:21 am | Report abuse | Reply
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