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.

Post by:
Filed under: Science • Space
soundoff (1,170 Responses)
  1. Matt

    It's only a theory, people; a theory that's been around for awhile now. There is no proof whatsoever of anything like this existing. Carry on with your lives - don't hide in your bomb shelters just yet.

    February 15, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Solar Flare

    Some of you cats have seen the fifth element like waaaay too many times.

    February 15, 2011 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • hdlmipkubi

      9cz2q6 eumftmyxlqzp

      October 20, 2011 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
    • enykexn

      B4fncN esfeskbdtnko

      October 22, 2011 at 8:55 am | Report abuse |
  3. jj

    Read Zecariah Sitchin. This is Planet X, which he calls Nibiru. The ancient Sumerians and many other ancient people saw it come and wrote about it – the story remains on the hard clay cuneiform tablets. Not a legend or a myth – it is history as the ancients saw it.

    February 15, 2011 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Buddy

    I liked the concept better when they were calling it "Planet X." Sounded like a great sci-fi B-movie. The name "Tyche" is so sterile. If we named a star after Justin Bieber, astronomy would be a lot more popular.

    February 15, 2011 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
  5. richwood7

    First we have red giants, white dwarfs, black holes, brown dwarfs...why can't we ever have a White Average Star-like Planet, we could call it a WASP! Seriously, I find all this stuff fascinating and every discovery is a triumphant for the human race whether it is in medicine, astronomy, physics (remember the particle accelerator in Europe is going to create a black hole and we are all going to be sucked into it) or any other discipline, archeology, paleontology, antropology, or any other -ology. At the time it may seem silly or trivial but you never know what it means in the long run. When we stop exploring, we might as well become a vegetable.

    February 15, 2011 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
  6. John Gardner

    According to Mike Brown of Caltech, "Sedna shouldn't be there". It demands an explanation. Couple this with the very strange behavior of Pioneer's 10 and 11 and the anomalous acceleration of virtually all unbounded spacecraft, and it tells us either Newtonian dynamics work differently than we thought (highly unlikely) or the solar system is accelerating. My hat is off to Whitmire and Matesse et al but a 4x Jupiter planet in the outer reaches is not going solve it. It would not surprise me to learn that our solar system is accelerating around a very large mass. This may explain some of the earth orientation anomalies too. These cannot all be separate issues. Look for a universal solution.

    February 15, 2011 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chicken

      Are we going to die?

      February 15, 2011 at 11:20 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Twitter_Twaddle

    It's an ugly world- a bug world.

    February 15, 2011 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
  8. RichardSRussell

    The reason we can't see it is because, IF IT'S THERE AT ALL, it doesn't give off light in the visible spectrum. It's very small compared to our sun (which has 99% of the total mass of the entire Solar System), and a long distance away in an unknown direction, and its surface is probably dark, so it doesn't reflect light very well, either. They call it a brown dwarf "star", but the "star" part can be kind of misleading, because we hear it and assume "bright", when all it really means is "sustaining SOME level of nuclear fusion due to a high concentration of mass". That fusion can be going on way down at the core, where we can't see it.

    February 15, 2011 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
  9. John Kimble

    Its the Death Star! May the force be with us...

    February 15, 2011 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Yay!

    Its the end of the world! 🙂

    February 15, 2011 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Ed

    I have a condo there but I'm upside down on my mortgage. Oops, I dropped my tin foil helmet...

    February 15, 2011 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Nick A

    I hope it is there and I hope it is a planet. I want to go back to the days of having 9 planets in our solar system.......Poor misunderstood Pluto.You'll always be a planet in my eyes!

    February 15, 2011 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Richard Hagen

    A physisist I respect a lot, Professor Richard Mueller of UC Berkely was one of the parties who put forward this nemesis hypothesis as a possible explanation for observed phenomena. I am hopeful that we may soon have an answer to this part of the puzzle of what makes up our neighborhood. We observe a large fraction of stars as binary or more complex systems with other stars, and we are increasingly becoming aware of the prevalence of dim stars and remnants in our galaxy. Given this, the possibility of having a small or darker partner to the sun should not be all that surprising. It may turn out to be the case, or it may not, but we will likely have an answer to this riddle within the next few years, and almost certainly within most of our lifetimes.

    February 15, 2011 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Joseph Bleaux

    It's the giant alien spaceship. The aliens have been here for thousands of years, controling us and breeding us for a huge celebration and feast to their god in 2012. They'll be coming down then to feast on our flesh and suck up our brains with their big fat sucking lips. We're DOOOOOMED I tell you!

    February 15, 2011 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
  15. BiggusDiccus

    What if its just a bigger version of Uranus?

    February 15, 2011 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35