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

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 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. James R.

    LOL at these replies.

    February 15, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Suchi

    You guys are such a bunch of Hollywood drama queens. If nemesis comes, there would be a period of anarchy but then it would just be judge dread and everyone would just watch movies and take Lsd. Big f deal. Just another day at the office.

    February 15, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Sohel

    WISE telescope will help us to be wise to say that all star system is a binary star system. People who comments against such a possibility is actually trying to hide their face like an austrich. But, there is no singular star system in the universe (so far we have observed).

    February 15, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  4. rob

    It's probably heaven.

    February 15, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  5. MasterC

    The crazed Niberu/Nemesis/Planet X people have been pushing this story for years, it is now official news. Weird. Just plain weird. Or perhaps it is just another setup by the "they" who rule us with an iron fist of confusion. Proof! I demand proof! Where is this so called flying gas ball in space? Oh I get it, this is about extracting more research money to fund your astro projects. Now it makes sense. Cha ching! Winner: the guys who pulled off this racket. Congrats mates. Congrats.

    February 15, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gary

      Iron Fist of Confusion would be a great name for a band.

      February 15, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Chaplain Charlie

    It's probably just New Jerusalem and the Messiah on their way back to Earth. 🙂

    February 15, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Tree

    How is this newsworthy? This has been a topic of debate amongst astronomers for some time now. I think the media sometimes just pics random articles to discuss. I am not against this article, but just was expecting something more current. I would not be surpirsed if we had a brown dwarf with our sun as it seems that most stars are part of binary systems.

    February 15, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  8. John

    O.K. – Why did disapear?

    February 15, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jackx

      I was wondering that myself.

      February 15, 2011 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. dz

    The only thing in the universe that could have that much mass to influence so mman y things in the solar system is Bill Maher's feeling of self worth

    February 15, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Chaplain Charlie

    Could this rain of fire from the heavens have been predicted? And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea.
    The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See , this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us. There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.
    Wow! maybe that old book the Bible isn't all fiction after all, maybe some supreme intelligent being was really trying to tell us something.

    February 15, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      No, it's a collection of parables on how to live life, not to be believed literally......

      February 15, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pinky

      Makes a good door stop. That's about it

      February 16, 2011 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
  11. abe

    No sense in worrying. If a giant black dwaft death start is going to destroy earth, there is nothing you can do about it. LOL.

    February 15, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  12. TJ

    These comments are full of trolls. I remember when trolls were just angry white kids that felt like yelling in caps and using colorful language to disrupt the flow of conversation. Now the trolls have learned "politics", great.

    That being said... There is an infinite amount of possibilities beyond Pluto, but just because we haven't seen it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. I wonder if the Oort cloud exists because of multiple large masses, similar to the one in this article. I wouldn't be surprised if there were 100's or 1000's of planets orbiting our one star, but we are just unable to see and measure or fathom the scale...

    February 15, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Chaplain Charlie

    LOL, half of you are nuts like me. 🙂

    February 15, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  14. RonD

    So, how about another hypothesis – Tyche is constantly scooping up matter from the Oort cloud until it finally reaches critical mass and "whoom!" we have a second sun in the heavens.

    What a mess to billions of years of circadian rhythm development! OTOH, once we adapted "jet lag" would be a thing of the past...

    February 15, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hitchhiker

      Actually the light from the brown dwarf if it reignited would be rather dim.

      February 15, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
  15. chipo

    this is great, I once took a picture of the sundown sky, and captured without my knowledge strange looking bodies. I never understood that picture...but with all these strange things happening, I now understand that picture I took about 5-7yrs ago...

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