When Good Hypotheses Break Bad

There have been many changes in astrophysics over the last few years. For instance, we “lost” our nineth planet when Pluto was demoted to dwarf planet. Then astronomers believe there might be a nineth planet after all, but larger and further away than Pluto (essentially, the planet Perceval Lowell was looking for 100 years ago , but did not find). They have good reason to be looking. It looks as if the orbits of some dwarf planets are pulled into a particular direction.  Might this be due to a nineth planet? Some think so, but others aren’t so sure. Perhaps we’ve looked at too few dwarf planets.in fact, those who have looked at bigger samples due not see this perturbing effect. Still others think there may be separate evidence for another planet, and they are calling that one Planet 10.

So, what gives? Do astronomers know what they are doing. Aside from me before my morning coffee, yes. We, and other scientist will accept hypotheses or at least provisionally consider them when the hypothesis seems like a reasonable explanation for what is observed, and then continued observations back the hypothesis. So maybe there’s a Planet nine and a Planet 10. Maybe there’s only one and not the other. So, stay tuned.

The Solar Systems frontier has been a subject of science fiction for a long time. An early Doctor Who episode featured a 10th planet. In the Space: 1999 episode, “Dragons Domain” a tenth planet, Ultra is discovered, and then a manned mission sent there discovers a dangerous life form. Although these episodes are old, they may be somewhat true after all. I wouldn’t expect life there, but maybe these planets exist.

Whether it is hypothesis about planets, cosmology, or climate change, discriminating scientists give other scientists a chance to prove their hypotheses by further observation. We may soon see what is out there, and what is not.

 

Want more? Read Physics and Astronomy of Science Fiction by Steven D. Bloom.

Its available from McFarland or any internet bookseller.

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