The professors say this new planet would be a gas giant, four times the size of Jupiter and 15,000 times as far from the sun as we are. At that distance, it would exist inside the Oort Cloud, a massive collection of ice balls that surrounds the solar system like a shell. They are tentatively calling the new planet “Tyche”.
They say they are hoping that the planet’s existence will be proven using data from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer. However, it could take up to two years for the WISE data analysis to prove the existence of Tyche. According to The Independent, Tyche was most likely pulled out of another solar system and ended up in ours.
Here’s the problem: another article at space.com suggested that in the mid 1980s to help explain some mass extinctions. Mass extinctions seem to happen at set times throughout our planet’s history. Typically, one happens every 27 million years. Granted, some mass extinctions happen at other times during the 27-million-year cycle, and sometimes no extinctions happen when the 27-million-year mark rolls around, but the likelihood of mass extinctions happening is highest every 27 million years. We are about 11 million years into the current cycle.
The flaw with that idea is the same flaw that I see with the “Tyche” idea: the influence of the galaxy tide isn’t accounted for. The “Nemesis” hypothesis was discounted due to the fact that the galaxy tide would exert enough of a pull that Nemesis wouldn’t be able to have a regular orbit at all. If Nemesis was to blame for mass extinctions caused by astronomical events, those events should happen at random intervals, not like clockwork every 27 million years.
The obvious issue here is why that same reasoning isn’t applied to Tyche: sure, the galaxy tide wouldn’t pull as much, but at that distance the tide’s effect should be a factor in the orbit of any large body.
The existence of Tyche is still up in the air, but it may be discounted when physicists apply the same principle that discounts the Nemesis theory. Hopefully the data from the WISE will help shed some light on the subject.