Modelling the dynamics of a hypothetical Planet X by way of gravitational N-body simulator

Article


Cowley, Michael and Hughes, Stephen. 2017. "Modelling the dynamics of a hypothetical Planet X by way of gravitational N-body simulator." European Journal of Physics. 38 (2), pp. 1-9. https://doi.org/10.1088/1361-6404/aa5448
Article Title

Modelling the dynamics of a hypothetical
Planet X by way of gravitational N-body
simulator

ERA Journal ID34299
Article CategoryArticle
AuthorsCowley, Michael and Hughes, Stephen
Journal TitleEuropean Journal of Physics
Journal Citation38 (2), pp. 1-9
Article Number025602
Number of Pages9
Year2017
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
ISSN0143-0807
1361-6404
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1088/1361-6404/aa5448
Web Address (URL)https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1361-6404/aa5448
Abstract

This paper describes a novel activity to model the dynamics of a Jupiter-mass, trans-Neptunian planet of a highly eccentric orbit. Despite a history rooted in modern astronomy, 'Planet X', a hypothesised hidden planet lurking in our outer Solar System, has often been touted by conspiracy theorists as the cause of past mass extinction events on Earth, as well as other modern-day doomsday scenarios. Frequently dismissed as pseudoscience by astronomers, these stories continue to draw the attention of the public by provoking mass media coverage. Targeted at junior undergraduate levels, this activity allows students to debunk some of the myths surrounding Planet X by using simulation software to demonstrate that such a large-mass planet with extreme eccentricity would be unable to enter our Solar System unnoticed, let alone maintain a stable orbit.

Keywordscelestial mechanics; planets; simulation
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Byline AffiliationsMacquarie University
Australian Astronomical Observatory, Australia
Queensland University of Technology
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