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Is this the death star?



An interesting story from abc news, especially in light of the "death
star" theory
circulating about ten years ago to the effect that the sun had a "dark
companion" body orbiting it, which caused regular mega-extinctions by
throwing comets into the inner solar system every (?)28,000,000 years..

Cheers,



A Tenth Planet?
                 Disturbance of Comets Hints at Something Out There

                 By Kenneth Chang
                 ABCNEWS.com
                 Oct. 7 ? Astronomers may have found hints of a
                 massive, distant, still unseen object at the edge
                 of the solar system ? perhaps a 10th planet,
                 perhaps a failed companion star ? that appears
                 to be shoving comets toward the inner solar
                 system from an orbit 3 trillion miles away.
                      Two teams of scientists ? one in England, one at
                 University of Louisiana at Lafayette ? independently
                 report this conclusion based on the highly elliptical
orbits
                 of so-called ?long-period comets? that originate from
an
                 icy cloud of debris far, far beyond Pluto.
                      ?We were driven to this by rejecting everything
else
                 we could think of,? says University of Louisiana
physicist
                 Daniel Whitmire.

                 Clump of Comets
                 A couple years ago, Whitmire and fellow physicist John
                 Matese noticed the farthest points of the comets?
orbits
                 didn?t appear random but bunched together, tracing a
                 path across the sky.
                      ?We accidentally noticed they weren?t uniform,?
                 Whitmire says.
                      First, they tried to explain the clumping from the

                 gravitational pull from a main disk of stars in the
Milky
                 Way stars. ?That ultimately didn?t work,? Whitmire
says.
                 ?We?ve gone through several other models trying to
                 explain this.?
                      At around the same time, John Murray, a planetary
                 scientist at The Open University in Great Britain, made
a
                 similar observation in similar comet data. ?I started
                 puzzling what this might could be,? he says.
                      The most obvious but seemingly unlikely
explanation
                 would be a planet. ? I thought we?d better rule that
out,?
                 he says. But as he analyzed the orbits, the farthest
points
                 appeared to fall on a circular orbital path ? ?which is

                 exactly what you would expect if there was a planet out

                 there.?
                      As the planet ? estimated to have a mass between
                 one and 10 Jupiters ? orbits, its gravitational wake
                 disturbs the icy debris of the outer solar system,
causing
                 some of it to plunge toward the sun as comets.

                 Very Distant
                 What?s surprising is just how far out there this
supposed
                 planet is. Both Murray and the University of Louisiana
                 physicists put the planet in an orbit about 3 trillion
miles ?
                 or half a light-year ? from the sun. The nearest star
is
                 four light-years away.
                      To put this distance in perspective, consider a
                 miniaturized version of the solar system in which Earth
is
                 one inch from the sun. On this scale, Pluto, the ninth
planet
                 would be a bit more than a yard from the sun. The new
                 planet, by contrast, would be a half-mile distant.
                      At that great distance, the 10th planet would be
too
                 dim to see by current telescopes, although there is
some
                 hope that if it exists, the next generation of
space-based
                 infrared telescopes might be able to pick it up.
                      Murray hypothesizes the planet may have been
                 wandering through the galaxy before being captured by
                 the solar system?s gravity. Whitmire suggests it is a
                 ?brown dwarf,? or a failed star, a companion to the sun

                 that was too small to light up.
                      Although suggestive, the findings are not
conclusive.
                 While Murray and the Louisiana physicists agree how
                 distant the new object is, they trace out very
different
                 orbits. Murray considers the orbits of 13 comets with
the
                 most accurately known orbits; the Louisiana team
                 considers 82.

                 Too Early to Look for a Name
                 ?It?s possibly suggestive,? comments Brian Marsden,
                 associate director for planetary sciences at the
                 Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in
                 Cambridge, Mass. ?I don?t want to bet on it. We?re
                 certainly not going to name it.?
                      Whitmire agrees it?s too early to say definitely
there?s
                 something out there.
                      ?Until it?s found, you can never be overly
confident,?
                 he says. ?We know in science you can be fooled by
                 statistics.? But he adds, ?If I was betting, it?s
better than
                 50-50 odds that it?s there.?



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