IS THERE A NEW PLANET IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM?
(P2) Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have found EVIDENCE in the outer solar system of an object that could be a real ninth planet.
(P3) Nicknamed Planet Nine, it “has a MASS about 10 times that of Earth and ORBITS about 20 times farther from the sun” than Neptune. That means “it would take this new planet between 10,000 and 20,000 years to make just one full orbit around the sun,” according to Caltech.
(P4) Researchers Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown haven’t actually seen the planet, but other research helped lead them to conclude that there is one. They discovered that certain objects in the Kuiper Belt — the field of icy objects and DEBRIS beyond Neptune — had orbits that pointed in the same direction.
(P6) Brown says, “There have only been two true planets discovered since ancient times, Uranus and Neptune, and this would be the third. It’s a pretty SUBSTANTIAL chunk of our solar system that’s still out there to be found, which is pretty exciting.”
(P7) Already, the Caltech researchers are confident that Planet Nine is large enough to rule out any debate about whether it’s a true planet — unlike Pluto, which GOT THE BOOT in 2006 for being too small.
(P8) Brown, who played a role in Pluto’s DEMOTION to a DWARF PLANET, says “all those people who are mad that Pluto is no longer a planet can be THRILLED to know that there is a real planet out there still to be found. Now we can go and find this planet and make the solar system have nine planets once again.”
(P9) Depending on where Planet Nine is, many ASTRONOMERS HAVE A SHOT AT finding it. Brown would love to find a planet he helped discover, “but I’d also be perfectly happy if someone else found it. That is why we’re publishing this paper. We hope that other people are going to get inspired and start searching.”
If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.
- Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
- Notice that like many American newspaper and magazine articles, this article has many uses of informal language such as “got the boot” and “have a shot.” Is journalism in your country written in formal or informal language?
- How can scientists “discover” something that they haven’t actually seen, whether it is a space object or a SUB-ATOMIC PARTICLE? What evidence tells them that these things exist?
- Have you seen any of the recent space exploration movies like Gravity, Interstellar, or The Martian?
- Have you ever owned a TELESCOPE? Do you enjoy looking at the night sky?
EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:
What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.
- Solar system
- Get the boot
- Dwarf planet
- Have a shot at
- Sub-atomic particle