Contributed by guest blogger, Chelsea Dutenhoffer
Last week two professors from Caltech, Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown, published research stating that they've found evidence of a new planet in our solar system. This new "Planet Nine" hasn't actually been observed through a telescope yet, but its existence has been mathematically inferred based on gravitational effects on other objects that have been seen. Planet Nine is probably 2-4 times the size of the Earth and orbits the Sun at a distance of 200-350 Astronomical Units (AU). One AU is defined as the distance between the Earth and the Sun, or about 93,000,000 miles. This planet is so far from the Sun that one year there would be the equivalent of 10,000 to 20,000 Earth years!
Maybe when you heard about Planet Nine, your first reaction was like that of my mother: "It's so weird to think there's something revolving around the Sun that we haven’t known about before. It boggles my mind!"
We like to think of ourselves as humans living in a modern scientific age where we've got things all figured out. So, a big new discovery like this, one that changes what we all believed to be true, understandably confounds some people. But to me, this is such a relief, and actually pretty cool!
We make predictions about the future based upon our own understanding of things. These predictions range from average daily worries to disaster scenarios usually hyped up in the media. For me, a major discovery like a new planet highlights that the human mind starts from an incomplete, limited picture of things.
There haven't been any new planets discovered since Neptune in 1846. As recently as 2006 Brown himself has been quoted as saying things like, "That's it. That's the end of planets. We get eight in this solar system and that will have to be enough" (www.findplanetnine.com). Then, all of a sudden, we're told that the number of planets we've known about for the last 170 years was wrong? What other supposed facts have we been allowing to limit us, and how do we know those are true? There's always room for divine Mind, God, to be in control of every detail of His creation. What's more comforting than that?
There have been many claims over the years of a new planet, but none have been substantiated. Batygin and Brown originally set out to disprove a paper from 2014 that predicted a new planet. After many discussions and computer simulations, they actually ended up providing the most compelling evidence yet that such a planet does exist. They proved true exactly what they had set out to prove false! This shows that when we set aside our personal biases and open ourselves up to the completeness that the divine Mind is constantly revealing to us, we can't help but to see the truth.
In the video posted above Batygin says, "History shows us that it's a bad idea to consistently say, we have now reached the end of the solar system and there's nothing beyond what we already know." That's really the takeaway for me—that we should be aware of the limited nature of human perception and always be open to divine inspiration, which continues to reveal the infinite.
Chelsea has a Bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from Embry-Riddle, and a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from USC. She currently works at Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech in Pasadena.
Inspiration is all around us. It makes us feel like we've climbed a majestic mountaintop. Enjoy the view!