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By Charles Q. Choi, Space.com Contributor | October 19, 2016 01:15pm ET
PASADENA, Calif. — The putative "Planet Nine" may have tilted the entire solar system, researchers say.
In January, astronomers revealed evidence for the potential existence of another planet in the solar system. Researchers suggest that if this world — dubbed Planet Nine — exists, it could be about 10 times Earth's mass and orbit the sun at a distance about 500 times the distance from the Earth to the sun.
Previous research suggested that Planet Nine would possess a highly tilted orbit compared with the relatively thin, flat zone in which the eight official planets circle the sun. This led scientists to investigate whether Planet Nine's slant might help explain other tilting seen elsewhere in the solar system. The Evidence for 'Planet Nine' in Images (Gallery)
Now, researchers suggest that Planet Nine's influence might have tilted the entire solar system except the sun.
"Planet Nine may have tilted the other planets over the lifetime of the solar system," said study lead author Elizabeth Bailey, an astrophysicist and planetary scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
Prior work found that the zone in which the eight major planets orbit the sun is tilted by about 6 degrees compared to the sun's equator. This discrepancy has long been a mystery in astronomy.
What used to be dubbed as simply a "conspiracy" is gaining ground as being a real possibility among astrophysicists.