An artist’s impression of a large exoplanet orbiting a distant double star on a steeply inclined trajectory. Image: ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser
Using the exquisite resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope, researchers analysing 14 years of data have managed to characterise the 15,000-year orbit of a massive exoplanet slowly circling a double star some 336 light years away.
The planet is more than 730 times farther away from its parent stars than Earth is from the Sun, in a steeply inclined orbit well outside a dusty debris disc surrounding the double star. As it turns out, the orbit of the exoplanet, known as HD 106906b, is similar to the presumed path of a hypothesised “Planet Nine” in Earth’s solar system.
While the hypothesised planet could explain the observed orbits of several bodies in the extreme outer solar system, no such planet has yet been found.
“Despite the lack of detection of Planet Nine to date, the orbit of the planet can be inferred based on its effect on the various objects in the outer solar system,” said Robert De Rosa of the European Southern Observatory.
“This suggests that if a planet was indeed responsible for what we observe in the orbits ...