The far reaches of the outer solar system may be home to an icy giant — a hypothetical planet scientists have dubbed “Planet Nine.”
Meanwhile, archives back on Earth are home to dozens of medieval records documenting the passage of comets through the heavens. Now, two researchers from Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland are hoping to use these old scrolls and tapestries to solve the modern astronomical mystery of Planet Nine.
“We have a wealth of historical records of comets in Old English, Old Irish, Latin and Russian which have been overlooked for a long time,” said university medievalist Marilina Cesario, one of the leaders of the project. “Early medieval people were fascinated by the heavens, as much as we are today.”
The records include dates and times, Cesario said, which makes them useful to modern-day astronomers.
Finding Planet 9
Planet Nine, if it exists, would have about 10 times the mass of Earth and orbit 20 times farther from the sun than Neptune does. (Planet Nine is not Pluto, which was once considered the ninth planet but was demoted to mere “dwarf planet” in 2006. Nor is it Nibiru, the completely fictional “rogue planet” that conspiracy theorists sometimes claim is about to destroy the Earth.)