recommended reading

NASA: Sorry, Pluto's Replacement Isn't Real

An artist's rendering of the moon system of Pluto

An artist's rendering of the moon system of Pluto // NASA

"Planet X" sounds like something from a comic book or intergalactic space opera.

It's actually a hypothetical planet scientists have used to explain a variety of astronomical events. Unfortunately, it doesn't exist.

NASA's sky-surveying spaceship has turned up all sorts of findings—but a giant gas planet out past Neptune isn't one of them, the agency announced Friday.

Since the early 20th century, scientists have used Planet X as the possible answer to unexplained events in our solar system. Mass extinctions, some said, may have been caused when this unseen planet ran through a mass of comets and redirected them toward Earth.

Others have used Planet X to explain irregular comet orbits, as well as the orbits of Uranus and Neptune. But NASA said Thursday it's found nothing larger than Saturn out to the distance of 930 billion miles. (Pluto—the original, then discounted, Planet X—is on average only 3.7 billion miles from the sun.)

NASA reached its conclusions from scanning hundreds of millions of objects spotted by WISE—a spacecraft that uses infrared light to survey the sky. The ship has found thousands of stars—including many unknown ones close to Earth, "hiding in plain sight"—as well as millions of other observations like galaxies and asteroids.

The ship was recently renamed NEOWISE and has moved into asteroid-hunter mode, helping us better track nearby flying rocks and looking for a candidate on which to land astronauts in the next decade.

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • Effective Ransomware Response

    This whitepaper provides an overview and understanding of ransomware and how to successfully combat it.

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.