“Killing Pluto was fun, but this is head and shoulders above everything else.”
- Mike Brown, Caltech astronomer
The fucking gall that this man has. You may remember Mike Brown as the astronomer who ruthlessly stripped Pluto of its long held status as the ninth planet in our solar neighborhood. That was way back in the year 2005, over ten years ago. Now, the man who brought about the end of our planetary relationship with Pluto because it wasn’t big enough (talk about shallow, am I right?) is rising into relevance once again. This time, however, he brings with him news of a different kind. On Wednesday, Brown revealed that he and a colleague, Konstantin Batygin, have discovered evidence that suggests the existence of a large planet lurking in the darkness beyond Neptune.
Hold up, wait a minute. Another planet?
Yes, Mr. Brown suggests that the planet is roughly the size of Neptune and orbits the sun once every 15,000-20,000 earth years (I have seen both of those numbers reported). They still have not actually found this planet yet, but the evidence that points to it is quite compelling. Since I heard about this possibility, I have found myself hoping that Planet Nine is officially discovered soon. Bringing a ninth planet back into the mix would return a sense of balance to our minuscule section of the universe. Eight planets just doesn’t feel right. You know it. I know it. The whole world knows it, just as well as the aliens inhabiting the deepest recesses of Mars know that there are actually far more than a measly nine planets in our solar system.
In a way, it is fitting that Mike Brown is the one to turn our attention to a new planet. Even though he may not be the one to actually find it when all is said and done, he and Konstantin Batygin deserve to receive much of the credit for what would be a really cool occasion that actually means next to nothing for life as we know it. If and when Planet Nine is discovered, I will probably be able to forgive Mike Brown for his shunning of our former ninth planet that is now relegated to live out the rest of its existence as a dwarf. Nothing can bring Pluto back from its cold dark grave, but a new planet just might fill that hole in my heart.
I would like to remind you that we here at Laconic Mnemonic are most certainly not scientists. I don’t want to bore you with every last detail of how Brown and Batygin came to the conclusion that a large planet must be hiding somewhere out there in the furthest reaches of our solar system. That’s why I’m dropping links to articles that will work much better for you if that’s the kind of thing that you’re looking for. Laconic Mnemonic is *gasp* not a primary source of information. We have to get our information from somewhere, so we must do our best to give credit where it is due. I just want to talk about how fucking cool this is.
Look, I’ve been fascinated by outer space for a long time. I think it’s the same for a lot of people, really. When I was younger, my grandparents bought me a bunch of books on our solar system and space in general and I spent hours reading every last bit of information in them. Like many children, I went through a phase where I dreamed of one day becoming an astronaut. I wanted to walk on the moon and be the first man to walk on Mars. That dream died quickly, as my love for science faded and I began to read fiction rather than books about space and dinosaurs. Oh, right, I went through a brief paleontology phase, too. Anyway, the point that I am trying to make is that no matter what your level of interest in science is, potentially monumental discoveries like Planet Nine have the power to captivate you. When Kyle first sent me an article about it on Wednesday night, I felt like I was eight years old again, reading those books while lying on the floor of my grandparents’ house. It took my mind off the trivial problems of my life (namely, the latest Lakers loss) and reminded me that we are all so damn insignificant in the grand scheme of the universe.
Wow, that got way out of hand. I apologize. There are a few more things about Planet Nine that I would like to talk about, though. First of all, if it is found, what should we name it? I have seen some pretty good suggestions floating around the Internet. In an article for The Atlantic, the author, Ross Andersen, suggests naming it Nox (also spelled “Nyx”) after the Roman goddess of night and shadow. Persephone is another name that I have seen proposed. Persephone is a goddess from Greek mythology. She is the daughter of Zeus and the queen of the underworld. I think these are both great ideas and I could definitely see either of them being used, although I personally think Persephone is a slightly stronger candidate. I’m really not sure why we have to name planets and other celestial bodies after mythological gods and goddesses, but if I’m being honest, I kind of like it. However, what about just calling it Planet Nine? Sure, that’s not realistic, but I think it has a decent ring to it. I know, it doesn’t fit in with all of the other planet names, but we’re going to be calling it Planet Nine until it’s found, so why not just keep it? …Yeah, I like Persephone better. While I’m on this subject, why the hell did we name our moon “THE MOON” while we handed out awesome names to the moons of all the other planets? Saturn has moons like Titan and Enceladus, Jupiter has Ganymede and Io, hell, even our closest neighbor Mars has Phobos and Deimos. Why is our moon so lame that it is only called “THE MOON”? Why can’t it have a kickass name like Akratos or something? I’m sure there are many unused names from Greek or Roman mythology, so let’s get our shit together and find our moon a name. It deserves one. (Note: The same can be said for the Sun, but I don’t feel quite as strongly about that. Whatever.)
Because I am so excited about Planet Nine, I often catch myself making the mistake of assuming that it has already been found, or that its actual discovery is an imminent event. That is not the case. It might not even be discovered. The first article that I linked to states that Brown first realized the factors believed to be evidence for Planet Nine’s existence in 2003. It took him thirteen years to conclude that there must be a ninth planet out there and to feel comfortable enough to go public with the news. He went on to say that it could take five years to fully search the area in which they believe the planet to be hiding. So, we’ll all probably forget about this in a few weeks or months. Then, in a few years, we’ll have a bombshell dropped on us and our solar family will be complete once again. Well, it’ll be that or I’ll be devastated when they announce that they weren’t able to find anything that further supports Planet Nine’s existence. I guess I’ll have myself prepared for the worst by that time.
I only have one more thing I want to talk about before I let you get back to your day. Are we ever going to see some fucking interstellar travel? Interplanetary travel is one thing, but if all the reported facts are to be believed, the planets in our neighborhood aren’t really all that appealing to potential space tourists like myself. Even if interplanetary travel was good enough, we still haven’t hit that landmark yet. And when we do, it will probably take years just to travel to another planet. I’m not exactly saying “WHY ISN’T STAR WARS A REALITY YET”. Except I kind of am. I’m sure we have the technology to AT LEAST make interplanetary travel a feasible thing. As for interstellar travel, we have the Kepler observatory discovering all these potential Earth-like planets. I want to GO to them. At the very least, I want to know for a fact that these planets are habitable like our own, and I don’t think we can say that with a hundred percent confidence if we don’t get closer to the damn things. I really wish we would have put more money into NASA. I expect some amazing things to happen in my lifetime, but I know there could have been so much more if we had focused on that. If you’re interested, read this Reddit thread about where we could be today if we had spent more money on NASA. I have no way of knowing if the things suggested in it actually make sense, but just thinking about it is enough to make me wish for more.
So. Planet Nine. Nox. Persephone. Whether or not it is actually out there, it has brought me back to a world that I used to love. It’s probably too late for me to go back to chasing dreams of walking on other planets. Truthfully, I don’t even really want to anymore. I am content in my own home. Unless affordable space tourism becomes an actual industry in the near future, that is. I would totally jump on that.