His research shows that the bigger objects, such as Sedna, move slowly around the sun - the equivalent of the hour hand, while smaller objects in the Kuiper Belt, such as asteroids, move "relatively fast and in tandem", like the minute hand. "What does their collective gravity do?" said Madigan of the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences (APS) and JILA. There is also a theory that suggests unseen ninth planet lurking beyond Neptune may have kicked up the orbits of these detached objects. As space debris interacts in the outer solar system, the orbits of these objects tighten and widen in a repeating cycle. Can the quirks of these distant objects be explained some other way? "There's a lot more stuff out there than we once thought, which is really cool".
Detached TRANS-Neptunian objects (eng. detached objects) are called the heavenly bodies, which are located beyond the orbit of Neptune and is believed to not feel the gravitational influence of the latter.
The researchers presented their findings today at a press briefing at the 232nd meeting of the American Astronomical Society, which runs from June 3-7 in Denver, Colorado.
But instead, undergraduate astrophysics student Jacob Fleisig helped Dr Madigan envision all the different bodies outside the solar system chaotically crashing into one another. This cycle could wind up shooting comets toward the inner solar system-including in the direction of Earth-on a predictable timescale.
A hypothetical object revolves around the Sun in an elongated path (in inclined relative to Earth's orbit plane) with a period of 15 thousand years, and physico-chemical properties reminiscent of Neptune. "These orbits crash into the bigger body, and what happens is those interactions will change its orbit from an oval shape to a more circular shape".
These findings are supported by a 2012 study, which revealed that bigger "detached objects" tend to wander farther away from the sun, notes CU Boulder. Possible separate object is Sedna, the perihelion of which is two times beyond the orbit of the eighth planet. But since Planet Nine has yet to be directly observed, some scientists are naturally questioning its existence.
Where Do Dinosaurs Fit Into All Of This?
Astronomers at NASA have spent the last decade searching for the mysterious Planet Nine, or Planet X, as they believed the planet's existence could explain the unique orbits of at least five small bodies outside the edge of the solar system.
What's intriguing about this new "asteroid swarm" hypothesis is that it may prove that the Chicxulub asteroid (which ended up impacting Earth and wiping out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago) wasn't an accident-it was part of a 30-million-year pattern that may spell doom for humanity. "While we're not able to say that this pattern killed the dinosaurs, it's tantalizing", says Fleisig.