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. Alex

    they think they found a brown dwarf? hey scientists, i left one of those in the toilet this morning for you...

    February 15, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Dr. Zaius

    Beware the beast Man, for he is the Devil's pawn. Alone among God's primates, he kills for sport or lust or greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him; drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of death.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
  3. ted

    no research at all and i know that jupiter is a dwarf star that once fought with the sun over solar kingship .
    jupiter lost because saturn"s gravity pulled jupiter to far away . that is why they find lots of solar systems that have one massive gas planet that orbits strangely around its sun . if there were two massive planets there would be a balance between them and therefore the solar systems would look much more like ours. saturn balanced all the bad things that would have made our sun twice the size that it is today. much bigger it would have nova millions of years ago.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sunspot

      Wow, all that and you did no research at all?? Amazing!! Maybe that's why everything you said here is totally incorrect. Next time, try some research.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • IMHO

      Ted,

      You said it best, "No research at all..." It really shows. You just spewed nonsense. Look there is no way to convince you to go take some classes or read some books on the subject, but there is an easier way. If you find science somewhat interesting start easy and watch the science shows on the various science channels. You have to be "critical" though in your choices. Ignore the History channel's "Ancient alien" shows... But stick with some astronomy ones. Try a Nova episode.

      If you are still interested there are books for younger readers that will start to give you the needed background. I'm not trying to be insulting here. But if you jump in too deep you'll just get frustrated and quit.

      Believe me, the scientific process is amazing. The universe will blow your mind once you understand what we know so far. Come back in 6 months and reread what you posted and you'll see how silly you were right now.

      Good luck.

      February 15, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. AFChick

    ...and they still can't "find" Osama Bin Laden.

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

      No, but they found a huge Mexican guy that had just eaten 100 burritos. They have classified him as a gas giant.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • You idiots

      Lol, but they can't find you mom... She has her own area code for christ sake, they should have found her!

      February 15, 2011 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Al Beritebak

    ..and it's headed our way at 40,000 kph. Hasta la vista baby!

    February 15, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  6. GsySgt Hartman

    That is Nibiru.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Darth

    You are part of the Rebel Alliance and a traitor. Take her away.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Maria

    That's Nibriu, not a star. It has an eliptical orbit and comes around every 3,000 years. I think the Sumerians knew about it.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Dave Detwiler

    I bet it is one big fart bubble left by a gigantic alien bozo the clown. I wouldnt mind swimming in it but it probably doesnt smell too good.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Suchi

    Luke, I, am your father ( picture of alien life form pointing ton the bible coming out if a soacecraft with two suns and the words 'protectorate'

    February 15, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Obi Wan

    These aren't the droids you're looking for.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  12. NetNinja

    Nibiru! So it comes. All I have to say is get ready to move out west to stay away from all the wackos who will start lossing thier minds. Move away from the Cities and congested areas.
    Every human for themselves.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Suchi

    Luke, obei one told who was your father...,,

    Noooooooo

    February 15, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Suchi

    Luke., life, is simply advanced nanotechnology....

    Nooooooooooooooooo

    Luke, i am your father.........

    February 15, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Ryan

    Wow, I made it halfway down the comments before people started bashing Creationists after a science article. That's a lot longer than usual. I loved all the Star Wars comments, though. They were far more entertaining than listening to a bunch of hot air leaving a shrinking balloon.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cedar Rapids

      And yet it took only 4 top level comments before someone invoked god and said we need to stop 'trying to show he does not exist'

      February 15, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • jim l

      and maybe one day people will learn what an internet troll is and stop feeding them.

      February 15, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      A lot like when little kids grow up and learn who their parents are and what they did, scienctists are simply figuring out how God did it. Just because we are using science to figure out God's work, doesn't mean it isn't God's work.

      February 15, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      God is just the default answer for the unexplainable. Just a glance at history shows whenever man couldn't explain or understand an event (sunrise, sunset, rain, shooting stars, etc) – it was always "God did it" until we gained the scientific knowledge to understand the cause of the event.

      February 15, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
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