96.

1476H

THE ASTRONOMICAL JOURNAL VOLUME 96, NUMBER 4 OCTOBER 1988

THE LOCATION OF PLANET X
1988AJ

R. S. Harrington
U. S, Naval Observatory, Washington, DC 20392
Received 17 May 1988; revised 12 July 1988

ABSTRACT

Planet X, if it exists at all, is most likely to be found, at present, in the region of Scorpius, with a
considerably lesser likelihood that it is in Taurus.

In 1930, Tombaugh found the planet Pluto. This was the sought. Finally, a weight was assigned to each normal point.
result of a systematic search initiated at Lowell Observatory Weights based upon the rms scatter within each normal
as the result of predictions made by Lowell as to the position would give the bulk of the weight to the observations after
and nature of a supposed additional planet in our solar sys- about 1920, and therefore on modern transit-circle observa-
tem. At the time, Pluto was hailed as the object of that pre- tions. However, it is important to give enough weight to ear-
diction, even though there were anomalies in its appearance ly observations to give them some significance in a solution
and orbit evident right from the time of its discovery. Since for long-period effects. Therefore, the weights were based
then, these problems have only become more serious, and merely on the square root of the number of observations per
the discovery of its satellite in 1978 revealed a mass of Pluto normal. A few tests indicated that this consideration is not
that could not have caused any of the perturbations in the significant for the final results.
orbits of Uranus and Neptune used to predict the existence The item of interest for the present analysis is the pertur-
of a ninth planet. For a complete review of the discovery of bation in the orbit of a known planet, produced by the pres-
Pluto and the developments leading up to the suspicion of ence of an unknown Planet X. (X can be thought of as either
the existence of a tenth planet, see Seidelmann and Harring- representing the unknown or the number 10.) Hence, the
ton (1988). equations of motion are cast in the form of the motions of the
The motions of Uranus and Neptune cannot be adequate- residuals in rectangular coordinates. For numerical work,
ly represented within the present gravitational model of the this is known as Encke’s method, and the description fol-
solar system. Pluto cannot have any detectable effect on lowed here comes from Brouwer and Clemence ( 1961 ). The
these two planets. There is therefore a good possibility that method relies on the fact that it is being applied only to the
there is at least one undetected planet in our solar system, orbits of Uranus and Neptune. These planets are sufficiently
and it is now possible to set some constraints on where that distant, move sufficiently slowly, and are perturbed suffi-
planet might be. ciently little that all vectors representing planetary positions,
The observations used in this study were taken from com- whether known or unknown but assumed, as they appear in
pilations of all positional determinations available through the derivatives of the perturbations, can be represented by
1982 for each planet of interest. These observations are quite approximate vectors. For assumed Planet X orbits, two-
varied in nature and source and include both visual and pho- body motion is assumed. For Uranus and Neptune, the low-
tographic determinations. The Uranus observations go back precision formulas as given by Van Flandern and Pulkkinen
to 1833 and the Neptune ones to 1846. These compilations ( 1979) are employed.
were supplied by the Nautical Almanac Office of the U. S. Additional assumptions are that the perturbations are suf-
Naval Observatory. They consist of observed positions of ficiently small that expansions in them are only required
Uranus and Neptune, along with residuals in right ascension through first order and that the mass of the perturbed planet
and declination from positions computed from DE200 need not be included in the solar gravitational constant rep-
(Standish 1982a,b). The residuals were first converted to resenting the principal term in the acceleration of the pertur-
residuals in ecliptic longitude (great circle) and latitude. As bation (both of these have been numerically verified). The
a statistical approximation, this is not correct, since these result of this development is a set of relatively simple equa-
data are not statistically independent. However, for the pres- tions of motion that can be integrated very quickly for a
ent analysis this makes no difference, and it greatly facili- given orbit of Planet X. A reintegration of the entire outer
tates the subsequent comparison with numerical simula- solar system is not needed for each test case and, indeed, only
tions. the positions of the perturbing and the perturbed planets
These residuals were then combined into seasonal normal (the perturber and the perturbée) are required.
points, producing average geocentric residuals spaced slight- To be specific, let | be the vector of perturbations of an
ly more than a year apart. These residuals were then as- observed planet, caused by Planet X, from the vector r of the
sumed to be adequate representations of the equivalent he- predicted position of the observed planet, based on the
liocentric average residuals for the observed oppositions. known gravitational model of the solar system (i.e., the actu-
There are usually enough observations per opposition, with al vector of observations is r + g). The vector r is approxi-
enough balance pre- and post-opposition, that the small sys- mated as described above. Let rx be the position vector of
tematic errors within each observation should tend to cancel Planet X. Let ¡i be the gravitational constant of the Sun and
out in the mean. The exception would be that, in the mean, ¿¿x be that of Planet X. The equation of motion for the per-
heliocentric residuals should be, at most, a few percent turbation vector can therefore be written as follows:
smaller in magnitude, an effect that is well below the noise
level within each normal point. In any case, these short-peri- H ( 3r-§ r rx
1=
od differences do not affect the long-period effects being M3V |r|2 >

1476 Astron. J. 96 (4), October 1988 1476

© American Astronomical Society • Provided by the NASA Astrophysics Data System

although he finds local best fits in the same two regions Only those cases for which the rms scatter of the observed of the sky. In this case. however. His prediction is of Neptune. there are 30 test orbits repre- tions to be compared with the observed ones. (a) is northern. and both of 8 6 4 _l I L 16 14 12 Fig. 1. Thus. 1. latitudes in 15° using an approach that at many points is very similar to that increments from — 45 to +45. This was carried out for both Uranus and Nep. © American Astronomical Society • Provided by the NASA Astrophysics Data System . he has concentrated on the solution giving the residuals about the predicted ones were 10% or more below absolute best fit. The best-fit posi- tor of Planet X. found Pluto coincidently close to a possible location for represented an increment of 10% of the circular energy).1476H 1477 R. and the mass in increments used here. which was concentrating on that solution accessible steps were taken about each circular orbit (each energy step to it. Powell (1988) has carried out a solution of the problem longitudes in 1 hr increments from 1 to 24. He has also taken as a first iteration a zero- the raw observed rms residuals were saved for further analy. orbit near the extremes of the observational interval.96. and he has made similar each run. ■ the prediction of Powell. 2. S. There are far more the plane of the sky at each epoch to produce predicted longi. Counting overlapping points. and constant and secular with the same degree of concentration of the best ones. these regions are almost directly motions that would be required of an approximately circular opposite each other). such that the direc. with the posi. to pick a constella. zero-inclination orbit. terms are removed to produce a set of predicted perturba. The rectangular perturbations are rotated into case is towards the center of each region. allowing for eccen- positions for each region are plotted in Fig. the Planet X at that time. declination — 10° to + 50°. For Uranus. a winter positions. giving a grand total of just over a third of a million selves. and these results at some level. but with positions predicted for 1930. mately right ascension 3h to 7h. The problem. along with the discovery location of Pluto. sented in the first region and 153 in the second. E indi- •’s other best fits. again with a similar approach. There were no such cases for post-discovery observations planets but possibly not so for this case. It is consistent with the above compute 1988 heliocentric positions for the planet. eccentricity. the Lowell energy in uniform specified steps. The comparison of Pluto’s location with the predicted low- tions are distributed uniformly around the circular vector probability location of Planet X shows the degree to which and the magnitudes incremented to vary the total kinetic Pluto was mimicking Planet X at that time. He has used weighted oppositional normal points of \J¿ æ from 3 to 5^# æ . the resulting orbits were used to indicated as well in Fig. legitimate for the known sis. distances were varied in increments of 10 AU from 30 to 80. and to integrate the above equation to each tions cluster toward the center of each region. suggesting The experimental procedure was to systematically pick perhaps more than 5 to 1 odds that the planet is in the south- masses and position vectors for Planet X. he has formally solved for a best-fit orbit. dicted for 1930. ern region. 1. + ’s represent very best fits. They also conclude that Uranus is the more suitable indicator planet. 2 shows the locations pre- tion of velocity vectors around and including that of the cir. 1. For comparison. Fig. tions from the best-fit orbits highlighted. of the planet Uranus. but it is farther east than suggested here were found to cluster in two relatively limited regions of the even for that region. Positions predicted for 1988 best-fit solutions. indicating that the most likely location in each compute r. presumably as a result of the more rapid sky (as has to be the case. approximations to concentrate on the perturbations them- tune. The first region runs from approxi. Same as Fig. Gomes and Ferraz-Mello ( 1988) have also examined this and the other from 14h to 21h and — 70° to — 10°. four energy search. points in the southern region than in the northern. tricity but no inclination for Planet X. However. cular orbit for each position and mass. tude and latitude perturbations. as would be 1988AJ of the observed epochs. trials. for a total of 172 368 test cases for of residuals. using closed formulas (not series) to expected. HARRINGTON: PLANET X 1477 The numerical procedure is to pick some mass and state vec. (b) southern-summer. and. cates position of Pluto at discovery. Fig.

D.5 his calculations. I would like to thank Tom van Flandern. Mass/n: 4^0 etary survey. magnitude 14. (Academic. © American Astronomical Society Provided by the NASA Astrophysics Data System . Harrisburg. The present position is now complete description of the Lowell survey).. The quasiquantitative results here support this conclusion. Guildford). Private communication. Perihelion Epoch T\ 6 August 1789 Ken Seidelmann gave me access to the Uranus and Neptune Semimajor axis a: 101. P. HARRINGTON: PLANET X 1478 their reasonable solutions give a present position close to the Argument of node Cl: 275. special thanks to Conley Eccentricity e: 0. and south of — 4 Io. REFERENCES Brower.4 1988AJ A further consideration here is the complete Lowell plan. who first con- Therefore. and Moore. 114. W. C. Icarus (submitted). — 38°.411 Powell. (1982b). but as a typical good case. New York). Methods of Celestial Mechanics Standish. C... 297. p.96. Out of the Darkness (Stackpole. ( 1979).2 AU residual data. Celest. Suppl. (in press). Celest. Gomes.. J. it can be suggested that the probability that the planet is in the north is quite low. 391. P. M. 16. the indications are that his search was region.0 h. ( 1988). an area only marginally covered. and Harrington. The above gives positions in 1930-1943 between 14h and 15h ing a good portion of the northern sky down to approximate. vinced me that Planet X might be real and worth looking for. S. 176. C. and Pulkkinen. T.1476H 1478 R. ( 1982a). Astron. 181. From this alone. K.. who continually kept me abreast of his progress in Argument of perihelion co\ 208. S. K. Inclination /: 32. T. G. ( 1988).. M. Tombaugh. ( 1961 ). Standish. the following nominal orbit may be used to locate Planet X: and whose thinking guided the initial stages of this project. Astrophys. Lutterworth. ly 16th magnitude (see Tombaugh and Moore ( 1980) for a at this magnitude by Tombaugh. (1988). 26. Powell. cover. and Ferraz-Mello. Mech. Seidelmann. While it is per. as I attempted to do for him. R. M. at best. as well as continued advice and criticism on Period P: 1019 yr the project in general. ( 1980). F. R. not as a best solution. quite thorough. S. 41.4 one given by Powell. Finally. After discovering Pluto. Mech. Jr. and Clemence. Van Flandern. S. Astrophys.0) : — 6 (assumed) looking for any additional planets for another 13 yr. for a above only as a starting point to cover the indicated broad variety of reasons. E. Any search should use the fectly possible that he could have overlooked Planet X. E. Jr. Tombaugh continued Absolute magnitude F( 1.