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No. 19: Jan-Feb 1982

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Problems At The Rim Of The Solar System

Neptune is an undisciplined member of the solar system. No one has been able to predict its future course accurately. Already this maverick planet is drifting off the orbit predicted just 10 years ago using the best data and solar-system models. All of the outer planets, in fact, confound predictions to some degree. In addition, some long-period comets have anomalous orbits. Astronomers have been aware that something was wrong for decades and anticipated finding a trans-Neptunian planet large enough to perturb the outer solar system. The discovery of Pluto did not help matters; it is much too small. The most popular explanation of the orbital anomalies relies on a large, still-undetected planet, possibly 3-5 times the mass of the earth, swinging sround the sun at some 80-100 Astronomical Units. But many have searched and no one has found anything. Planet-X, as it is often called, is just another bit of "missing mass." Thomas C. Van Flandern and Robert Harrington propose that all the obvious orbital damage in the outer solar system is the result of a single encounter between Neptune and another body, call it Planet X if you wish, that was passing through the outer reaches of the solar system.

(Frazier, Kendrick; "A Planet beyond Pluto," Mosaic, 12:27, September/October 1981.)

Comment. It is rather ironical that the proposed encounter with an invading planet so closely parallels some longcondemns scenarios of astronomical catastrophism.

Reference. Astronomers have searched for Planet X for many years. See Chapter AX in our Catalog: The Sun and Solar System Debris. This book is described at: here.

From Science Frontiers #19, JAN-FEB 1982. 1982-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987