6
$\begingroup$

Is so-called Planet Nine (given it exists) observable in principle? By "observable in principle", I mean "if we knew exactly where to look, would we be able (from a technological standpoint) to get an image of the purported celestial body"?

$\endgroup$
8
$\begingroup$

If they knew exactly where to point Mr. Hubble, then yes, it should be easily visible, though at that distance, it would still be blurry, not a clean image.

The estimated apparent magnitude of Planet Nine varies based on which website you believe, Google provides ranges from 20 to 25 with Wikipedia saying >22. Higher numbers mean less visible.

Hubble can see things up to apparent magnitudes of about 30, so, yes, it should be easily visible by Hubble or (perhaps) even more visible by an infra-red telescope or radio telescope that knows where to look. But in any case, with current technology all images would still be blurry. Hubble's pictures of Pluto are blurry and Pluto's much closer.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
-4
$\begingroup$

Of course; how would we find it otherwise? This is how we look for it: image one part of the sky with a telescope, about where the planet is presumed. At another time we image the same part again and see whether a star moved or is no longer there. This star is the wandering star = planet we're looking for.

The hypothetical object has a very elliptical orbit, and perhaps can even be seen with the naked eye when at perihelion since it may be a primordial black hole (which itself isn't visible but its accretion disc would be). About 4,000 years ago, when the black hole (if it is one) was closer to perihelion, the Sumerians may have seen it and called it Nibiru. But we dunno whether that's the currently looked-for Planet IX.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ -1 for the Nibiru nonsense. Even at perihelion, Planet 9 would be well beyond Neptune, and the Sumerians didn't spot the ice giants. $\endgroup$ – antispinwards Jul 15 at 17:28
  • $\begingroup$ @antispinwards How would we learn? Maybe the Sumerians just called Uranus and Neptune differently. $\endgroup$ – Ioannes Jul 15 at 17:54
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ At its brightest Neptune is too faint to be seen with the unaided eye (V~7.8). Planet 9 would be substantially fainter: Linder & Mordasini (2016) estimate V~18 at perihelion. Nibiru is at best pseudoscience. $\endgroup$ – antispinwards Jul 15 at 18:20
  • $\begingroup$ @antispinwards In case Planet IX is a primordial black hole, the ancient Babylonians might have seen its accretion disc. Such a disc is flat while a pillar-like bar emanates from the poles of the black hole. From the distance, without a telescope, it might look like a dot, star-like. $\endgroup$ – Ioannes Jul 16 at 4:43

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.