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. Robert

    It's Pluto...the planet who got dissed by our "leaders", went and took some PEDs, and is back with a vengence!

    February 15, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Donald from Holland

      YEAH !
      PLUTO is back to kick up some dust !!!
      Betcha NASA didn't see that one coming !
      It has been taking Astroids and is on a power-trip now !!!!

      February 15, 2011 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Suchi

    Ill save you with my spaceship human....but only if your slave princess lei a to my jabs the hut...mmmmmmmm yum yum

    February 15, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  3. When will then be now?

    What the hell am I lookin' at?
    When does this happen in the movie?
    Now. You're looking at now sir, everything that happens now is happening now.
    What happened to then?
    We passed it.
    Just now. We're at now-now.
    Go back to then.
    I can't.
    We missed it.
    Just now.
    When will then be now?

    February 15, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  4. John

    Hey if they classify this as a planet... we can have nine again!

    February 15, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Suchi

    Jabba jabba. Be my leia

    February 15, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  6. The Borg

    Could it really be....... The Borg have sky-jacked the "Death Star" 😉

    February 15, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  7. goat

    If it's really responsible for mass extinctions on earth, I say we call the damn thing Nemesis.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Suchi


    February 15, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Obi Wan

    Thats no moon

    February 15, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  10. James

    "Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi; You're my only hope."

    February 15, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Suchi

    Goat, we will protect you, and by you i mean, you know, like hot human women. Unforunately, uh, we will have to save the innocent women and children first..

    February 15, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • ed

      This is nothing surprising CNN, brown dwarfs are NOTHING compared to the unimaginable largest object known till this day in the entire universe: Supermassive Black Hole OJ 287, with a mass estimated of 18 billion solar masses, located 3.5 billion light years away in the Cancer Constellation, it's the biggest object on record, and that is GIANT. This supermassive objects are far from being completely understood, they specially reside at the center of any galaxy, thus being the object that sustains the entire gravitational force of any galaxy.

      February 15, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Suchi

      Theycant call it nemesis...that would automatically make people associate it with danger...they are trying to control the population....shhhhhhhhhhh

      Common, make their job easier man, they already had to fire robert Gibbs. Poor guy.

      February 15, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • qwerty allstar

      Suchi they cant call it nemesis cause there is a theory that there is a star called the nemesis star that has caused mass extinctions. Its more of a conspiracy theory but its still a theory none the less. Google before you speak my friend

      February 15, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • norm



      February 15, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • rs

      Regards your comment " Supermassive Black Hole OJ 287, with a mass estimated of 18 billion solar masses"...

      A black hole has "mass" based on its gravitational and radiation output but it may have no volume.

      So, it may be the most dense object but it likely has no volume. So it is not the most massive from a size standpoint.

      February 15, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frank
      ....we have 16 million years until the next peak....ok so i'm not loosing sleep over this.

      February 15, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • optimus

      Ba Wa Gra Ninny Ba

      February 15, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • ed

      @rs Agree, it may have less volume than expected, but I doubt less than a brown dwarf which only has about 0.075 solar masses, how would that beat in volume the mass of 18 billion solar masses?? yes the supermassive black hole is extremely dense and compressed, but it still needs certain amount of volume to keep its exceeding mass, a volume greater than any brown dwarf. Density=mass/volume.

      February 15, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • magnus

      the giant black hole Ed describes is probably a gate-way to the another universe in the multi-universe hypothesis. Or, it is the gateway to the negative vacuum that gives rise to spontaneous planked-size space that exists for only plank time before falling back into the negative vacuum. Perhaps that is how all universes, including our own, began. And black holes are a way to connect the multiverses to each other.

      February 15, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Morta

      That is fine, WE will protect all the human MEN, as our planet is an all male planet. And all the males are free to be without clothing.

      February 15, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Westerling

      The volume of a black hole decreases as its mass increases. Just sayin.

      February 15, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Warren

      Uh Norm, you have been listening to way too much Coast To Coast! Sitchen was a loon. There is NO "Planet X" with the characteristics he describes. Note that the object in this article has an orbital period of 27 million years, not the 26,000 you claim for Nibiru. Most of the Planet X nuts claim a period more like 3,500 years. I had an email exchange with one of the current proponents of Planet X, Nancy Lieder, some years ago. This woman (she is NO a lady, mean and foul mouthed) knows absolutely nothing about astronomy, physics, or mathematics, and I think she is pretty typical of the Planet X lunatics.

      February 15, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Evie

      This seems like a "Spaced-out" ghost story to me

      February 15, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • amphiox

      Ed, the question of volume for black holes is actually a tricky one.

      By definition, black holes have infinite density and zero (yes, zero) volume. Their gravity is so strong that no other force in the universe exists that can hold it up against its own weight, so, once formed, it's own gravity causes it to shrink forever until it becomes a point with no dimensions, aka a singularity.

      Astronomers often instead define the "size" of a black hole as its event horizon – the distance from the center in which nothing, not even light itself, can escape. From the outside, nothing can be observed that lies within the event horizon (as not even light can escape to carry the information out to the observers). A black hole with the mass of the earth would have an event horizon the size of a small marble or pea (it is unknown if black holes that small exist or not in nature). The event horizons of the most massive black holes would extend out to the orbits of the outer planets, if the black hole were where the sun is.

      February 15, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • amphiox

      I should also add that because of the event horizon, the "zero volume" part of a black hole is entirely theoretical (it's predicted by General Relativity). It's impossible to measure (and by impossible I mean truly impossible – if the part of general relativity dealing with black holes is correct, then then the laws of physics literally forbid the observation of anything within the event horizon of a black hole, by any means. No technology no matter how advanced would be able to do it) anything inside the event horizon, so it's impossible to ever measure the actual size of the black hole inside it.

      February 15, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Neeneko


      Well, depends on if you want to count the event horizon or not. While technically a black hole is a singularity, one can effectively treat the event horizon as its outer edge and thus they do have a 'size' from a practical standpoint... though most of these are pretty small (on the order of a few dozen kilometers)

      February 15, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • amphiox

      Norm, it cannot be Nibiru even if it exists.

      The key feature of the whole Nibiru thing is that it has a highly elliptical orbit that periodically brings it into the inner solar system, AND that it is due to do so in the near future. The escape velocity of the sun is the maximum speed that any object in orbit around the sun can possibly travel (or else it will escape the sun's gravity and fly off into interstellar space). For any object 15000 AU away from the sun to get into the inner solar system without any of our lifetimes, it would have to be moving much faster than the escape velocity of the sun (in fact, faster than the escape velocity of the GALAXY) and could not be a companion to the sun.

      Also, any large object with an elliptical orbit that brings it into the inner solar system would leave in its wake very obvious signs of its passing in terms of the way it will affect the orbits of all the other planets – signs that would remain easy to observe and obvious millions of years after the passage itself. If something like Nibiru had ever, ever been in the inner solar system, we would know. The orbits of all the other planets would show telltale signs of it. And they do not. In fact, one of the reasons it is being hypothesized that Tyche is at least 15000 AU away from the sun is that if it were any closer, it's gravity would already be strong enough to alter the orbits of the other planets in a way that we would be able to detect. But we find no such alterations.

      February 15, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |

      It's most likely a spinoff from another system, cold giant, has little gravitational pull as it is too far away, is most likely collecting space debris & increasing in size. 2012 is coming soon, watch the signs & repent. Just saying...

      February 15, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      *Insert NIBIRU/12th planet conspiracy theories here*

      February 15, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • amphiox

      For it to actually make a close approach to earth in 2012, of all years, it would have to be traveling faster than GALACTIC escape velocity. It would have to be an object either in the process of being ejected out of the Milky Way entirely, or was ejected from another galaxy.

      There are only a small number of mechanisms that can produce such "rogue" stars/brown dwarfs/planets, and only a very few such stars in any given galaxy at any given time.

      February 15, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Doom

    Ahhhhhh Ahhhhhhhh

    RaaaaaaaaaaHHHHHHH !

    *Runs around office screaming with arms over hear*


    February 15, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • David Garcia

      Best comment.

      February 15, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Doop


      February 15, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • dogmanmn

      LOL! Love it...

      February 15, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • GlenBeck

      Hey, that's my schtik

      February 15, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  13. outawork

    Issac Asimov wrote an excellent book about this very premise called Nemesis.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Suchi

    Outawork, and i wrote Asimov. Did you know that? I bet you didn't.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Num Num Num

    What if its like.... a big ball of.... BACON !

    Imagine the love.

    February 15, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sutemi

      The Muslims would bomb it.

      February 15, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • qwerty allstar

      HAHAHAHAHAHAH @ Sutemi's comment

      February 15, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • CCUBED

      Or a GIANT ball of trash coming back to destroy Earth!!


      February 15, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • MIchael

      haha, big ball of trash a la Futurama. not our problem!

      February 15, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • matt

      Yes. Futurama

      February 15, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • CCUBED

      we need a smelloscope

      February 15, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • jason

      is this you Dustin?

      February 15, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
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