At the outskirts of the solar system, beyond the orbit of Neptune, lies an expansive field of icy debris known as the Kuiper belt. The orbits of the individual asteroid-like bodies within the Kuiper belt trace out highly elongated elliptical paths, and require hundreds to thousands of years to complete a single revolution around the Sun. Although the majority of the Kuiper belt’s structure can be understood within the framework of the known eight-planet solar system, bodies with orbital periods longer than about 4,000 years exhibit a peculiar orbital alignment that eludes explanation. What sculpts this orbital alignment and how is it preserved?
In this talk, I will demonstrate that the observed clustering of Kuiper belt orbits can only be explained by a distant, eccentric, Neptune-like planet, whose orbit lies in approximately the same plane as those of the distant Kuiper belt objects, but is anti-aligned with respect to those of the small bodies. In addition to accounting for the observed grouping of orbits, the existence of such a planet naturally explains a staggering array of other, seemingly unrelated phenomena of the solar system.
Konstantin Batygin is an Assistant Professor of Planetary Sciences and the Van Nuys Page Scholar at Caltech. He has been recognized by the 2015 Forbes list of 30 scientists under 30 who are changing the world, and has been named one of the “Brilliant 10" people of 2016 by Popular Science magazine.Join Report
From August 26, 2017 9:00 am to 12:30 pm Save to calendar