Understanding Our Changing Universe

The Takeaway

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One of the biggest scientific breakthroughs of the last century was announced to the public yesterday in Washington, D.C. 

David Reitze, executive director of CalTech's twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), told the world that scientists have detected ripples in the fabric of spacetime. These gravitational waves were first predicted by Albert Einstein a 100 years ago, and gravity has been the main clue for a lot of discoveries about the universe.

"What we have discovered is that numerous features of the Kuiper belt—a field of icy debris beyond the orbit of Neptune—can be understood if the solar system possess an additional 9th planet that resides well beyond the orbits of the known planets," Konstantin Batygin, an astronomer at CalTech, said in January.

For decades, kids were taught that there were nine planets in the solar system, until Pluto was demoted to a "dwarf planet" and then there were officially just eight real planets left. Two astronomers recently published a paper making a case for the existence of a new ninth planet in the solar system.

The new potential planet has been dubbed Planet Nine, but MIT professor, Tom Levenson, offers The Takeaway a word of caution. According to Levenson, the author of “The Hunt for Vulcan,” “nature has plenty of ways of fooling astronomers into seeing planets where there are none.”