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. Nobama

    Don't bother looking for the brown dwarf.
    Gary Coleman just passed away recently.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:39 am | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Trevv

    http://explorehealthcareers.org/en/Career/129/Forensic_Pathologist/eurl.axd/898a63ae886e334c8d7d5e54356fc58f

    February 15, 2011 at 11:43 am | Report abuse | Reply
  3. FreddyK

    Money is of... no importance. I... want... the... STONES...

    February 15, 2011 at 11:46 am | Report abuse | Reply
  4. mecatfish

    Dang the disinformationists are here in force.
    Kinda over did it kids.
    Did you read the words "mass extinctions".
    Or "orbit".
    If it is real...it will be back. Nibiru?, Wormwood?, Scacloth?

    February 15, 2011 at 11:47 am | Report abuse | Reply
  5. BobaFett

    I think this is where the Daygaba system is.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:49 am | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Gort

    Every habitable star system has one. It absorbes much of the cosmic distructive radiation. You terrians.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:50 am | Report abuse | Reply
  7. sparky

    Look at all the idiots commenting Star Wars like they're the first to think of it

    February 15, 2011 at 11:51 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • FreddyK

      I referenced 5th Element, a much more sublime, witty and elite movie than Star Wars. It's like the Nancy Pelosi of sci-fi.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  8. BobaFett

    Mecatfish becareful how you use the word "force"

    February 15, 2011 at 11:51 am | Report abuse | Reply
  9. A-LEP

    nibiru exists! this 'brown dwarf' will pass by earth and we will continue to feel its effects till around 2050, by then there will be enough sizemic activity that will unearth ancient artifacts that prove our ancient heritige! 'gods' came to earth and genetically modified us as a slave race, how do u explain our 'evolution' that happened so much faster on this planet compared to other species. the sun is exploding with energy with solar flares, our earth is going through a pattern of natural diasters, but cnn is a part of the elite propaganda made to brainwash and ensure people are dumb and calm so consider yoself warned. this is real!

    February 15, 2011 at 11:54 am | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Scotty

    its a dyson sphere...daaaahhhhhh

    February 15, 2011 at 11:54 am | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Rod Venger

    Scientists are coming up with more innovative ways to fleece the taxpayers. Even if it's there...so what?

    February 15, 2011 at 11:55 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Cedar Rapids

      'Scientists are coming up with more innovative ways to fleece the taxpayers'
      Yeah because apparently that is what scientists do, they are all lying scheming dishonourable frauds, prepared to say and do anything to get rich by stealing our money instead of getting real jobs, right?

      February 15, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      Oh yeah... It's all about money. I got an idea, let's not do anything or even study it. Then, when something does happen you can blame it on "god's plan".....

      February 15, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Chewbacca

    ggNnaaaaarr! ggnnaaarrr !

    February 15, 2011 at 11:56 am | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Willy

    We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.

    February 15, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse | Reply
  14. DOSGuy

    This is not a new theory. Paleontologists identified a 27 million year extinction cycle in 1984. This quickly led to the Nemesis theory, which hypothesized that a very faint star orbits the solar system every 27 million years, igniting icy objects in the Oort cloud into comets that enter the inner solar system and collide with Earth. The theory is at least 25 years old, but the star's name has changed in the name of political correctness.

    "Nemesis is a hypothetical hard-to-see red dwarf star or brown dwarf, orbiting the Sun at a distance of about 50,000 to 100,000 AU (about 0.8-1.5 light-years), somewhat beyond the Oort cloud. This star was originally postulated to exist as part of a hypothesis to explain a perceived cycle of mass extinctions in the geological record, which seem to occur once every 27 million years or so. ... Some of the scientists who have proposed the brown dwarf or super-planet theories have proposed that this hypothetical body instead be named "Tyche". They have stated that this is due to the desire to sidestep the negative connotations of the word "Nemesis" in mythology. Tyche also appears in Nemesis mythology, but as a more positive character." ~ Wikipedia

    February 15, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Sunspot

    CNN has this article under the heading "Another planet in Solar System". No. Wrong! Bad CNN............Sit in the corner...

    February 15, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Cedar Rapids

      Its really just Pluto.
      He bulked up on those formulas you see advertised on the shopping channel in an effort to get reaccepted into the planet club.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
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