WISE survey finds thousands of new stars, but no 'Planet X'

Mar 07, 2014
A nearby star stands out in red in this image from the Second Generation Digitized Sky Survey. Image credit: DSS/NASA/JPL-Caltech

(Phys.org) —After searching hundreds of millions of objects across our sky, NASA's Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) has turned up no evidence of the hypothesized celestial body in our solar system commonly dubbed "Planet X."

Researchers previously had theorized about the existence of this large, but unseen , suspected to lie somewhere beyond the orbit of Pluto. In addition to "Planet X," the body had garnered other nicknames, including "Nemesis" and "Tyche."

This recent study, which involved an examination of WISE data covering the entire sky in infrared light, found no object the size of Saturn or larger exists out to a distance of 10,000 astronomical units (au), and no object larger than Jupiter exists out to 26,000 au. One astronomical unit equals 93 million miles. Earth is 1 au, and Pluto about 40 au, from the Sun.

"The outer solar system probably does not contain a large , or a small, companion star," said Kevin Luhman of the Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds at Penn State University, University Park, Pa., author of a paper in the Astrophysical Journal describing the results.

But searches of the WISE catalog are not coming up empty. A second study reveals several thousand new residents in our Sun's "backyard," consisting of stars and cool bodies called .

"Neighboring star systems that have been hiding in plain sight just jump out in the WISE data," said Ned Wright of the University of California, Los Angeles, the principal investigator of the mission.

Data from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, has found no evidence for a hypothesized body sometimes referred to as "Planet X." Credit: Penn State University

The second WISE study, which concentrated on objects beyond our solar system, found 3,525 stars and brown dwarfs within 500 light-years of our Sun.

"We're finding objects that were totally overlooked before," said Davy Kirkpatrick of NASA's Infrared and Processing Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. Kirkpatrick is lead author of the second paper, also in the Astrophysical Journal. Some of these 3,525 objects also were found in the Luhman study, which catalogued 762 objects.

The WISE mission operated from 2010 through early 2011, during which time it performed two full scans of the sky—with essentially a six-month gap between scans. The survey captured images of nearly 750 million asteroids, stars and galaxies. In November 2013, NASA released data from the AllWISE program, which now enables astronomers to compare the two full-sky surveys to look for moving objects.

In general, the more an object in the WISE images appears to move over time, the closer it is. This visual clue is the same effect at work when one observes a plane flying low to the ground versus the same plane flying at higher altitude. Though traveling at the same speed, the plane at higher altitude will appear to be moving more slowly.

Searches of the WISE data catalog for these moving objects are uncovering some of the closest stars. The discoveries include a star located about 20 light-years away in the constellation Norma, and as reported last March, a pair of brown dwarfs only 6.5 light-years away—making it the closest star system to be discovered in nearly a century.

Despite the large number of new solar neighbors found by WISE, "Planet X" did not show up. Previous speculations about this hypothesized body stemmed in part from geological studies that suggested a regular timing associated with mass extinctions on Earth. The idea was that a large planet or small star hidden in the farthest reaches of our might periodically sweep through bands of outer comets, sending them flying toward our planet. The Planet X-based mass extinction theories were largely ruled out even prior to the new WISE study.

The third closest star system to the sun, called WISE J104915.57-531906, is at the center of the larger image, which was taken by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). Credit: NASA/JPL/Gemini Observatory/AURA/NSF

Other theories based on irregular comet orbits had also postulated a Planet X-type body. The new WISE study now argues against these theories as well.

Both of the WISE searches were able to find objects the other missed, suggesting many other celestial bodies likely await discovery in the WISE data.

"We think there are even more stars out there left to find with WISE. We don't know our own sun's backyard as well as you might think," said Wright.

WISE was put into hibernation upon completing its primary mission in 2011. In September 2013, it was reactivated, renamed NEOWISE and assigned a new mission to assist NASA's efforts to identify the population of potentially hazardous near-Earth objects. NEOWISE will also characterize previously known asteroids and comets to better understand their sizes and compositions.

Explore further: NEOWISE spies its first comet

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NEOWISE spies its first comet

Mar 03, 2014

(Phys.org) —NASA's Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) spacecraft has spotted a never-before-seen comet—its first such discovery since coming out of hibernation late last year.

Image: WISE catalog just got wiser

Nov 15, 2013

NASA's WISE mission has released a new and improved atlas and catalog brimming with data on three-quarters of a billion objects detected during two full scans of the sky.

The closest star system found in a century

Mar 11, 2013

(Phys.org) —A pair of newly discovered stars is the third-closest star system to the Sun, according to a paper that will be published in Astrophysical Journal Letters. The duo is the closest star system ...

Image: March of asteroids across dying star

Dec 13, 2013

(Phys.org) —In an unexpected juxtaposition of cosmic objects that are actually quite far from each other, a newly released image from NASA's Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) shows a dying star, ...

Recommended for you

Image: Galactic wheel of life shines in infrared

Oct 24, 2014

It might look like a spoked wheel or even a "Chakram" weapon wielded by warriors like "Xena," from the fictional TV show, but this ringed galaxy is actually a vast place of stellar life. A newly released ...

New window on the early Universe

Oct 22, 2014

Scientists at the Universities of Bonn and Cardiff see good times approaching for astrophysicists after hatching a new observational strategy to distill detailed information from galaxies at the edge of ...

User comments : 28

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
4.7 / 5 (12) Mar 07, 2014
"Previous speculations about this hypothesized body stemmed in part from geological studies that suggested a regular timing associated with mass extinctions on Earth. ... The Planet X-based mass extinction theories were largely ruled out even prior to the new WISE study."

Actually they were ruled out when better sampling (more bivalves) and statistical methods (autocorrelation) both rejected earlier hypotheses of a periodicity in the diversity (extinction) record. [Various refs; all googeable.]

"Other theories based on irregular comet orbits had also postulated a Planet X-type body."

Arguably, as I recall. As I understand it most or all of that were rejected without requiring astronomical testing.
Maggnus
4.1 / 5 (9) Mar 07, 2014
True Torb, but it's still nice to see it taken to this degree.

You realize, of course, that Nancy and The Crazies will make much of this comment:
Both of the WISE searches were able to find objects the other missed, suggesting many other celestial bodies likely await discovery in the WISE data.
Sinister1812
5 / 5 (6) Mar 07, 2014
Well that puts things into perspective, doesn't it? Still would've been cool if there was something out there in the solar system we didn't know about.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.3 / 5 (13) Mar 07, 2014
True Torb, but it's still nice to see it taken to this degree
Im sorry but I've got to ask, how would you know either way? You obviously don't have an education and you don't really care to do much research, apparently. Do you?

Are you sure you're not just compulsively traveling from thread to thread, posturing and uprating and fishing for support? And BTW HOW MANY posts today is it? I estimate perhaps 70. You're really out if control aren't you magg?
Maggnus
4.2 / 5 (10) Mar 07, 2014
I'm thinking there's still lots of room for Kuiper belt object Sinister. I don't think the resolution was enough to pick up objects that small that far out - at least not yet!

As for the childish buffoon's diatribe, check out his ranting here: http://phys.org/n...firstCmt
Scroofinator
1.2 / 5 (10) Mar 07, 2014
Researchers previously had theorized about the existence of this large, but unseen celestial body, suspected to lie somewhere beyond the orbit of Pluto.


Umm, actually it was the Sumarians first to this party (with Sitchin translating), and with Nibiru being the name of the planet. Hilarious that scientists, who would never believe in such pseudoscience, are taking credit for "disproving planet x". Hypocrisy abounds.
yyz
5 / 5 (8) Mar 07, 2014
Looks like this rules out the Jupiter-sized body proposed by Matese and Whitmire in 2010:

http://arxiv.org/abs/1004.4584
Sinister1812
3.7 / 5 (7) Mar 07, 2014
I'm thinking there's still lots of room for Kuiper belt object Sinister. I don't think the resolution was enough to pick up objects that small that far out - at least not yet!


Yeah, fair enough, but Kuiper objects are tiny and not very interesting lol.
Captain Stumpy
4.2 / 5 (10) Mar 07, 2014
Yeah, fair enough, but Kuiper objects are tiny and not very interesting lol.

@Sinister1812
unless, of course, they are tossed into an intersecting orbit with earth lol

IMHO- given their abundance of unmolested volatiles from our solar system creation, I would be interested in seeing what they had to offer, and what they could potentially provide future travellers as far as resources would be interesting as well (include Oort cloud in that too)
Looks like this rules out the Jupiter-sized body proposed by Matese and Whitmire in 2010:

@yyz
interesting study linked
makes me think of lots of questions...
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.7 / 5 (6) Mar 08, 2014
True Torb, but it's still nice to see it taken to this degree.
I'm still really curious as to exactly what you were agreeing to and how you knew enough to agree to it? You gave no indication of either.

childish buffoon's diatribe, check out his ranting here: http://phys.org/n...firstCmt
Yes that was the thread were you said the ice age should already have started and I showed you you were off by 2000 years. And then stumpy questioned my source which happened to be the MIT Technology Review.

I think this site needs a lot more of that sort of objection to the cavalier postings of some abusers. Don't you agree? For instance:
I don't think the resolution was enough to pick up objects that small that far out
"The Kuiper Belt extends from about 30 to 55 AU and is probably populated with hundreds of thousands of icy bodies larger than 100 km (62 miles) across and an estimated trillion or more comets."

-It includes Pluto and the other minor planets. Many very big things.
Captain Stumpy
3.4 / 5 (5) Mar 08, 2014
And then stumpy questioned my source which happened to be the MIT Technology Review.

@Otto
ABSOLUTE LIE
I asked a question
had I wanted to "question you" or even "defend" anyone (per your comments in the thread)
I would have asked you to address the comments made by Inman on that same referenced article about Carbon cycles

YOU MADE AN ASSUMPTION based upon paranoia
then when caught, you decided to play the blustering TROLL
ANYONE reading might draw the same conclusions
the only one who would not would be the paranoid like you who assume that I am out to start a fight when I am seeking more info

nice try, TROLL
LIE ABOUT ME AGAIN and I will POINT IT OUT
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (4) Mar 08, 2014
@Otto
ABSOLUTE LIE
So Ill repeat what you said for you stump. You said:
you didnt bother to check it out all that well
This is referring to the MIT Technology Review article. Correct? Why should I have to 'check out' something printed in the MIT Technology Review stump?
ABSOLUTE LIE
No its not stump.
had I wanted to "question you"
But you DID question me. You asked:
did you? Do you have any? Would you mind linking it if you have it?
-which certainly look like questions to me. And:
you didnt bother to check it out all that well
-certainly looks like youre questioning my ability to vett sources, doesnt it?
YOU MADE AN ASSUMPTION based upon paranoia
then when caught, you decided to play the blustering TROLL
You saying these things doesnt make them true stump.
LIE ABOUT ME AGAIN and I will POINT IT OUT
-and screaming yourself hoarse still doesnt make them true now does it? Stump?

And youre lying when you continue to insist that Im lying. Yes?
Scroofinator
2 / 5 (4) Mar 08, 2014
It's not worth the effort Otto, he only see's things his way. I think stump fancies himself a troll herder, but from what I've seen I'd argue he's a troll master.
Captain Stumpy
3 / 5 (4) Mar 08, 2014
No its not stump

WRONG AGAIN
I asked
did you? Do you have any? Would you mind linking it if you have it?

when you got stupid
I explained
I was looking for supporting evidence. But I don't see any supporting data or studies for support
&
I was looking for supporting evidence
there is none
hopefully I can get it directly from the author

the reasons?
I had questions about Inmans comments
WHICH ARE ON THAT PAGE
AND
I wanted to know if you had pay-wall access that I didnt
just like some people couldnt see the Data I posted HERE:
http://phys.org/n...rth.html

sometimes people have access to information that others do NOT
cont'd
Captain Stumpy
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 08, 2014
certainly looks like youre questioning my ability to vett sources, doesnt it

given your historical full-fledged acceptance of the hydrino perpetual motion machine paper I have every right to question the ability of you to vett sources
now- TO CONTINUE
You saying these things doesnt make them true

your attacking someone wanting information that he might not be able to see is also considered paranoia, and in my opinion, applies here
youre lying when you continue to insist that Im lying

I will continue to point out your obvious lies regarding this issue as well as any other time I feel appropriate
you can bluster and posture all you want
TROLLS often do that
as long as you post a LIE about me, I will refute you
and you are LYING
you made an assumption about my comment that was not valid
perhaps I made the mistake of thinking that you actually read the whole article
I may be wrong there, and ONLY there
I DID read it, and I had ?'s, which I addressed to the author
Captain Stumpy
3 / 5 (4) Mar 08, 2014
as for THIS
you didnt bother to check it out all that well

Does it make you feel superior to post out of context?
Here is the FULL context
Arf
stump missed a few things...
"Professor Franklin Hadley Cocks '63, SM '64, ScD '65, teaches energy technology and climate-related courses at Duke University and is the author of Energy Demand and Climate Change (Wiley-VCH), which summarizes energy and climate issues of the past, present, and future."

ME
check the DUKE page again
you missed the part where it says the Dept. Manager... do you think you could take the 2 minutes to verify what I wrote? No?

Otto
No. Like I say Im not in the habit of looking things up for people. I only do this when they are posting shit, and I can prove it.

ME
I didnt ask you to look it up, I was pointing out that you didnt bother to check it out all that well

IOW-I was right
you went retard
out of context to support your argument
IOW - LIED & MISREPRESENTED HERE
PinkElephant
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 09, 2014
@otto,

I wonder if you could distract yourself long enough from your barking and your obsession with human anuses, to take a look at this...

http://www.realcl...olocene/

There's a nice recent reconstruction of the global temperature trajectory over the Holocene. There's some nice accompanying commentary at the link provided.

If only you, or your dog -- well, whoever is in charge, anyway -- could maybe examine the trend in global temps since the Holocene climatic "optimum". Is it flat, or rising maybe? Or could it possibly be on a steady decline? (The latter would be puzzling, wouldn't it, since today is not 2000 years into the future -- unless I just overslept?)
ACW
3 / 5 (1) Mar 09, 2014
I believe the whole reason for this articles originates from both the calculations used to discover the planet Neptune. After locating the planet they determined that another planet should exist beyond Neptune's orbit using the same calculations based on the perturbations of the planets. It was enough to convince Dr. Robert Harrington (an astronomer with the US Navy Observatory) that another planet must exist as Pluto did not prove to have enough mass for the perturbations.
http://csep10.phy...ons.html
Mimath224
5 / 5 (1) Mar 09, 2014
@Scroofinator Sumerians-better to stay with Kramer. Sitchin translations are conjecture (I'm being kind here). Sumerians, it seems, weren't that interested in the comos, but had many 'gods', as they were more concerned with practical issues and it was the early Babylonians that had more to say. Ha, but I'm a bit disappointed that Vulcan hasn't been found lol.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Mar 09, 2014
@otto,

I wonder if you could distract yourself long enough from your barking and your obsession with human anuses, to take a look at this ...

If only you, or your dog -- well, whoever is in charge, anyway
OTTO is in charge dammit!
could maybe examine the trend in global temps since the Holocene climatic "optimum". Is it flat, or rising maybe? Or could it possibly be on a steady decline? (The latter would be puzzling, wouldn't it, since today is not 2000 years into the future -- unless I just overslept?)
Well I'm pretty busy at the moment not doing things for people. Arf is usually out chasing cars and bitches at this time of night. Why don't you ask stumpy sirak? He could use the practice I think. You may have to explain to him what a research paper looks like because - I don't think he knows.

Really I only know what I read in the MIT rag. Sorry.

Where you been there pinkl? You oversleep for a year?
Scroofinator
1 / 5 (1) Mar 09, 2014
@Mimath
True, Sitchin has recently been proved to have been very "liberal" with his translations. The Babylonians were the first to have this theory. "The 12th Planet" was just the first we heard of it. Live long and prosper.
Mimath224
5 / 5 (2) Mar 09, 2014
@ACW and as Voyager 1 travels on...but doubt instrumentation is appropriate?
Sinister1812
5 / 5 (3) Mar 10, 2014
Poor Sitchin. I'll bet he's turning in his grave right now..
PinkElephant
4.4 / 5 (7) Mar 10, 2014
@otto,
Really I only know what I read in the MIT rag. Sorry.
Well, now you have the opportunity to know a bit more beyond (and in addition to) that...
Where you been there pinkl?
Spectacles such as your dogged leg-humping of Maggnus over what seems like a misconception on *your* part -- that is, Earth's natural climate trajectory since the Holocene optimum has apparently been a steady cooling towards the eventual next ice age, only to be rudely, very abruptly, and VERY conspicuously interrupted and reversed by our modern global civilization -- which you apparently didn't know but instead of trying to find out more, used your ignorance as fuel for your clown show... Well, that's a good case study in the sort of unmitigated, asinine in(s)anity that brought about my disgust with this site and its comment content.

I may stop by, occasionally, as random detours off the information superhighway bring me back through this backwater... but I do not intend to stay.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) Mar 10, 2014
Earth's natural climate trajectory since the Holocene optimum has apparently been a steady cooling towards the eventual next ice age, only to be rudely, very abruptly, and VERY conspicuously interrupted and reversed by our modern global civilization
I am assuming you read the MIT article and you see where I got the statement:

"In about 2,000 years, when the types of planetary motions that can induce polar cooling start to coincide again, the current warming trend will be a distant memory."

-And from your article it's not clear what the temps were that triggered the beginning of the present interglacial. So we can't really tell whether the temps shown in your chart are adequate to trigger an end to it.

So maybe you want to address why the author in the MIT article states that it is not due to end for another 2000 years?
asinine in(s)anity that brought about my disgust with this site and its comment content
-And your lack of a sense of humor is why you were not missed.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (2) Mar 10, 2014
BTW pink I just realized this is the wrong thread for that discussion. You may want to respond here:
http://phys.org/n...firstCmt
Rutzs
5 / 5 (2) Mar 10, 2014
Seriously... Do you people have nothing better to do than to be keyboard warriors?
maxberan
not rated yet Mar 16, 2014
Three and a half thousand stars and brown dwarfs in such a large volume doesn't sound enough given that we have several near neighbours within 10 light years. Just doing a very rough calculation, that number of stars would be 15 in each direction so their average separation is of the order of several 10's of light years. The Wikipedia list shows 50-odd stars within 16 light years. Presumably WISE is just showing us the tip of an iceberg so to speak.