In a groundbreaking development, Japanese astronomers have unearthed compelling evidence pointing to the potential existence of an "Earth-like planet" lurking within our solar system. This mysterious celestial body is believed to have taken residence in the Kuiper Belt, a vast circumstellar disk composed of objects residing in the outer reaches of our solar system, just beyond the orbit of Neptune. Much like the planets, the Kuiper Belt's contents orbit the Sun.
The researchers behind this revelation, Patryk Sofia Lykawka of Kindai University in Osaka and Takashi Ito of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan in Tokyo, express their conviction, stating, "We predict the existence of Earth-like planets."
They further elaborate on the possibility that a primordial planet has managed to endure in the distant Kuiper Belt, preserving a relic of the early solar system when numerous such bodies roamed.
Detailed in their publication within The Astronomical Journal, the astronomers assert that, if proven true, this newfound planet could be sized between 1.5 to 3 times that of Earth.
This discovery raises intriguing parallels with the ongoing speculation surrounding 'Planet Nine,' a theoretical celestial body presumed to exist in the far reaches of our solar system. However, Lykawka and Ito suggest that instead of searching far and wide for Planet Nine, the planet in question may be situated much closer to home, within the confines of the Kuiper Belt itself.
The duo's research further proposes the possible existence of several trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) in unusual orbits within the outer solar system, which could serve as observable signs of the enigmatic planet's gravitational influence.
Their analysis suggests that this undiscovered planet could be situated at a distance of 200 to 500 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun, tilted at an angle of approximately 30 degrees. To put this in perspective, Pluto, a well-known inhabitant of the Kuiper Belt, orbits at a distance of 39 AU from Earth.