Planet 9 Doesn’t Exist, So Why Does It Matter How We Get There? Let Our Expert Explain.October 12, 20223 min read
Planet 9 is an oft-discussed hypothetical planet in the outer region of the solar system. A new study involving Florida Tech astrobiologist Manasvi Lingam helps illustrate how we could possibly get there.
The study, “Can We Fly to Planet 9?” is from Lingam and researchers Adam Hibberd and Andreas Hein. The team discovered that using current, unmanned transportation methods, it would take 45 to 75 years to get to Planet 9, which is about 42 billion miles away from Earth. By comparison, Pluto, which is the ninth object from the Sun, is roughly three billion miles from Earth.
The research and work of Lingam, Hibberd and Hein is also getting a lot of attention from websites like UniverseToday.com.
The team also studied near-future transportation methods nuclear thermal propulsion and laser sails. Using nuclear thermal propulsion, it would take approximately 40 years to reach Planet 9. It would take merely six to seven years to reach Planet 9 using laser sail propulsion, which involves using light from lasers to propel the vehicle.
In its research, the team used the principles of orbital mechanics, sometimes called spaceflight mechanics. They inputted the complex and nonlinear mathematical equations into a computer, and then solved those equations with some optimization constraints.
“What I mean by the latter is that ideally you want to maximize or minimize some quantity as much as possible,” Lingam said. “You might say, ‘Well, I want to minimize the flight time of the spacecraft as much as possible.’ So, what we did is that we put in an optimization constraint. In this case, it happens to be minimizing the time of journey. You solve the mathematical equations for a spacecraft with this condition, and then you end up with the results.”
Lingam is inspired by the trendsetting Voyager spacecraft missions of the late 1970s, and one of his goals is to gain additional information about other worlds in our solar system, in addition to Planet 9 Voyager still provides valuable information regarding the outer solar system, though by 2025 it is expected that there may no longer be sufficient power to operate its science instruments.
“Any mission to Planet Nine would likewise not just provide valuable information about that hypothetical planet, but it would also yield vital information about Jupiter, because what we do in some of the trajectories is a slingshot or powered flyby around Jupiter,” Lingam said. “It could also provide valuable information about the Sun because we also do a maneuver around the Sun, so you would still be getting lots of interesting data along the journey. And the length of the journey is comparable to that of the functioning time of the Voyager spacecraft today.”
If you're a reporter looking to know more - then let us help get you connected to an expert.
Manasvi Lingam is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Aerospace, Physics and Space Sciences at the Florida Institute of Technology. He is an author and go-to expert for media when it comes to anything in outer space or out of this world - just recently he was featured in Astronomy.com where he was asked to answer the illusive question - Are we alone?
Manasvi is available to speak with media - simply click on his icon now to arrange an interview today.
Manasvi Lingam, Ph.D. Assistant Professor | Aerospace, Physics and Space Sciences
Dr. Lingam's research interests are primarily within the transdisciplinary areas of astrobiology.