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Published June 20, 2016 | Published + Submitted
Journal Article Open

Observational constraints on the orbit and location of Planet Nine in the outer solar system


We use an extensive suite of numerical simulations to constrain the mass and orbit of Planet Nine, the recently proposed perturber in a distant eccentric orbit in the outer solar system. We compare our simulations to the observed population of aligned eccentric high semimajor axis Kuiper belt objects (KBOs) and determine which simulation parameters are statistically compatible with the observations. We find that only a narrow range of orbital elements can reproduce the observations. In particular, the combination of semimajor axis, eccentricity, and mass of Planet Nine strongly dictates the semimajor axis range of the orbital confinement of the distant eccentric KBOs. Allowed orbits, which confine KBOs with semimajor axis beyond 380 au, have perihelia roughly between 150 and 350 au, semimajor axes between 380 and 980 au, and masses between 5 and 20 Earth masses. Orbitally confined objects also generally have orbital planes similar to that of the planet, suggesting that the planet is inclined approximately 30°to the ecliptic. We compare the allowed orbital positions and estimated brightness of Planet Nine to previous and ongoing surveys which would be sensitive to the planet's detection and use these surveys to rule out approximately two-thirds of the planet's orbit. Planet Nine is likely near aphelion with an approximate brightness of 22 < v < 25. At opposition, its motion, mainly due to parallax, can easily be detected within 24 hours.

Additional Information

© 2016 The American Astronomical Society. Received 2016 March 17; revised 2016 May 19; accepted 2016 May 24; published 2016 June 17.

Attached Files

Published - apjl_824_2_L23.pdf

Submitted - 1603.05712v2.pdf


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