Two Planets Larger Than Earth May Exist Beyond Pluto

solar system
A visitor looks at a model of the solar system, including Pluto (lower R), at the Boston's Museum of Science in Boston, Massachusetts. Brian Snyder/Reuters

Out past Pluto, in a galaxy not that far, far away (ours, in fact), may lie two planets larger than Earth. Astrophysicists studying "extreme trans-Neptunian objects" (ETNOs) now believe that a "Planet X" and a "Planet Y" are ripe for discovery, reports Space.com. If proven to be true, it will significantly alter what we currently believe about the solar system.

The research, published this week via two papers in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Letters journal, was conducted by astronomers at the University of Cambridge and the Complutense University of Madrid. In calculating the orbits of 13 ETNOs around Pluto, whose unique gravitational pull influences orbits of objects beyond Neptune, the scientist came to believe the orbit patterns indicate that another force is also acting upon the ETNOs. Perhaps, they said, it could even be an "icy super-Earth" that is 10 times larger than our Blue Marble.

Carlos de la Fuente Marcos, an astrophysicist at the UCM and co-author of the study, said: "The exact number is uncertain, given that the data that we have is limited, but our calculations suggest that there are at least two planets, and probably more, within the confines of our solar system."

This discovery could very well change the face of astronomy as we know it, as the data contradicts our contemporary solar models, which don't account for planets past Neptune. But the paper's authors were careful to mention that their research was conducted on only a handful of space bodies, and said they expect to examine a larger area in the coming months.

Critics of the discovery have also commented on the data's small sample size, as well as a lack of concrete observations of the theoretical new planets, X and Y. So while there may be more planets out there, the data isn't there to fully support such claims just yet.

Two Planets Larger Than Earth May Exist Beyond Pluto | Tech & Science