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. KT

    Oh look, journalists found an old story and told it again. What will they report next? BREAKING NEWS: bread now comes SLICED!

    February 15, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Pliny

    ok...let's try this....

    Don't get kocky.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  3. HEANN

    My butt itches

    February 15, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  4. ROCK

    Leia is a b1tch

    February 15, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Suchi

    Luke, you need to pass me the fan so I can give you the initial drive (otherwise known as the warp drive)c now can you stop being a brat and give me the fan. Geez, humans.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Suchi

    Inertial drive*

    February 15, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  7. D. Vader

    Don't be too proud of this technological terror you've constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the Force! "breath in* *breath out*

    February 15, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • You idiots

      *takes off his helmet*

      Your stupid, you know why? If we can see stars that are 500 million lightyears away, why cant we see this one?

      February 15, 2011 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
  8. someguy

    It seems that size does matter after all....

    February 15, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Han " Scoundrel ' Solo

    " You Like me because I'm a Scoundrel, There arn't enough Scoundrels in your life " !

    February 15, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jack

    I see your schwartz is as big as mine.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • James in Arizona

      No, mine is bigger, it was just cold that day.

      February 15, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Dan Godzich

    What if they find it and it starts braodcasting "resistance is futile"? Of course then it would be a cube, not a sphere....

    February 15, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  12. IdontknowIjustdo

    Oh great, now I have to eat more bacon because I don't know if I'll live long enough to have the amount of Bacon needed to fill my void of love for bacon. My Theory is that it's probably not Bacon out there, so to me it's not good. Bacon is good. All bow to Bacon.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Prince Vultan

    Doctor Hans Zarkov: What do you find? The moon out of orbit?
    Munson: By more than 12 degrees. This must be some sort of mistake.
    Doctor Hans Zarkov: No, it's no mistake... IT'S AN ATTACK! I've been right all these years!

    February 15, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
  14. patNY

    It's Homer Simpson...after all, isn't the entire universe a pitri dish with Lisa Simpson's lost tooth in the middle?

    February 15, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
  15. X-wing pilot

    I've lost R2!!!!!

    February 15, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Donald from Holland

      Not again !!
      How many times have I told you to tie hem to the hull of the ship ????

      February 15, 2011 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
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