A theory is hereby proposed that an unknown mega-massive planet has, for billions of years, been orbiting at 77.2 AU from the sun --- within a 44 AU-wide, virtually empty Great Void that surrounds the Kuiper Belt (One AU = 93 million miles, the mean Earth-Sun distance). The Void is postulated to have been formed by strong gravitational attraction of the unknown planet having removed all CKBOs (Classical Kuiper Belt Objects) that had existed previously in the vicinity of the massive planet's huge orbit.
The Kuiper Belt is a doughnut-shaped, 10 AU-wide region surrounding the regular planets that contains possibly trillions of small CKBOs, with some larger than Pluto. CKBOs, which make up approximately 70 percent of the known KBOs (Kuiper Belt Objects), orbit the sun in nearly circular paths that are typically within the ecliptic, the general plane of the solar system. KBOs are primordial planetesimals that had not coalesced to form planets billions of years ago. Some CKBOs, known as RKBOs (Resonant Kuiper Belt Objects), have been pulled by Neptune's gravity into orbits which resonate with that planet's 165-year orbital period. These comprise about 20 percent of all KBOs. The Scattered Kuiper Belt Objects (SKBOs) are CKBOs that have been perturbed into highly eccentric, extremely inclined orbits, and they make up roughly 10 percent of the KBOs within the Belt. A small number of SKBOs apparently are the only objects that remain within the Great Void surrounding the Kuiper Belt. They may have been near aphelion and far away enough to have avoided being captured whenever the unknown planet had orbited into a suitable position to acquire them.
No CKBOs are present beyond 50 AU from the sun. This evidently is the outer edge of the Kuiper Belt, which extends some 10 AU from Pluto's 39.5 AU mean distance --- to the Belt-end's 50-AU distance from the sun. Pluto's mean orbital distance appears to separate the closer-in eight regular planets from most of the myriad farther-out KBOs. Pluto may either be a KBO or an anomalous presently-inexplicable ninth regular planet. Except for a small number of SKBOs, nothing has been found in the Great Void. The Void extends about 44 AU --- from the 50-AU end of the Kuiper Belt to the 94-AU end of the solar system. The unknown planet is theorized to be orbiting at 77.2 AU, virtually half-way across the Void. It is postulated as having had sufficient mass, time, and gravitational effect during the eons it has been in orbit --- to have removed the CKBOs that previously had existed there ever since the solar system first formed. Some scientists postulate a 'passing star' to have provided the gravitational influence needed to take out the many CKBOs that had formerly occupied the Void, but a passing star would only have had a single pass and insufficient time during a relatively short period to eliminate all the missing CKBOs.
The 94-AU solar-system end, which also is the outer edge of the Great Void, was detected by NASA's Voyager-1 space-probe in December 2004 when it reached the heliosheath, a transitional zone between the solar system and outer space. A sudden increase in magnetic intensity (due to solar wind deceleration) indicated that Voyager-1 had left the solar system and had entered the heliosheath, where the solar wind was expected to encounter resistance.
The 77.2 AU distance from the sun of the proposed unknown planet is derived from a formula and numerical progression conceived by Johann Titius in 1766 and first published by Johann Bode in 1772-- after which it became known as Bode's Law. It uses a peculiar formula to derive an enigmatic numerical progression that generally matches the AU distances from the sun of most solar system entities. The positions of all six planets known in 1766 (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) were consistent with Bode's Law, but it was largely ignored because it included a planetary space between Mars and Jupiter where no planet existed. However, when Sir William Herschel serendipitously located Uranus in 1781 (the first new planet to be discovered in recorded history), it was observed to be close to where Bode's Law would have positioned a planet beyond Saturn. Interestingly, Bode also had proposed the name Uranus, which was adopted for Herschel's new planet.
In 1801, Giuseppi Piazzi and others began discovering objects in the Asteroid Belt, and found them to be located between Mars and Jupiter, almost precisely where Bode's Law predicted a missing planet. Nonetheless, most astronomers now dismiss Bode's Law as a fortuitous coincidence because the total combined mass of all asteroids is too small to ever have been a planet --- and because Bode's Law has no correlation with Neptune's location. However, the lack of mass in the Asteroid Belt may be due to a former terrestrial planet orbiting between Mars and Jupiter having suffered a shattering collision eons ago --- with many of the exploded, irregularly shaped, multisized fragments having been distributed throughout its orbit, and with many more fragments having ended up on other planets, or in the sun, or in outer space. Also, metallic and 'stony' meteorites that were perturbed out of the Asteroid Belt and which landed on Earth, have compositions that are analogous to our silicate crust and mantle, and to our nickel-iron core. Also, Neptune not matching any Bode's Law projected position could be due to that planet having shifted its original orbit from a different position to its present one --- as is theorized by many astronomers.
Pluto, discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh, was found to be approximately at the mean AU distance where Bode's Law indicated a planet beyond Uranus. In addition, the unknown massive planet projected to exist in the Great Void correlates fairly well with the 77.2 AU distance that Bode's Law proposes for a planet beyond Pluto.
The puzzling Bode's Law formula and its numerical progression are: n (the Bode Law's progression number) plus four divided by te -n-- where n equals zero for Planet #1 (Mercury), three for Planet #2 (Venus), six for Planet #3 (Earth), -- and so on; with n continuing to double its value for each successive planet thereafter. Although the Bode's Law projection for a trans-Uranian planet does not match Neptune's position, it does correlate broadly with Pluto's mean distance from the sun. Bode's n value for a planet beyond Uranus is 384 (which is Pluto's n value). Bode's n value for a planet beyond Pluto is 768 (which is the unknown planet's n value). Therefore, 768 plus four, divided by ten equals 77.2 -- which is the Bode's Law projected AU distance for a trans-Plutonian planet.
To best clear the CKBOs out of the 44 AU-wide Great Void, the massive unknown planet should be moving in an orbit approximately half-way across the Void --- close to 22 AU beyond the 50-AU end of the Kuiper Belt. This would place its mean distance from the sun at 72 AU --- slightly more than one-half AU different from the Bode's Law projection. The following Table compares the Bode's Law predicted AU distances with the actual AU distances of the solar system bodies. The correlation is apparent and remarkable.
|(a) ||(b) ||(c) ||(d) ||(e)
|Planets or |
|Bode's n Value, Formula, |
|1 ||Mercury ||0+4/10 ||0.4 ||0.39
|2 ||Venus ||3+4/10 ||0.7 ||0.72
|3 ||Earth ||6+4/10 ||1.0 ||1.0
|4 ||Mars ||12+4/10 ||1.6 ||1.52
|5 ||Asteroid Belt ||24+4/10 ||2.8 ||2.8 **
|6 ||Jupiter ||48+4/10 ||5.2 ||5.2
|7 ||Saturn ||96+4/10 ||10.0 ||9.54
|8 ||Uranus ||192+4/10 ||19.6 ||19.18
|9 ||Neptune ||(no Bode's Law correlation) || ||30.06
|10 ||Pluto ||384+4/10*** ||38.8 ||39.44
|11 ||Unknown Planet ||768+4/10**** ||77.2 ||?
* Position Number.
** Approximate mean actual distance of Asteroid Belt Objects.
*** Pluto's n value (384) is double that of Uranus (192), since Neptune's distance has no Bode equivalent.
****Unknown Planet Muriel's n value (768) is double that of Pluto's (384).
Why Bode's Law works may involve the spacing sequences undergone by the Kant-LaPlace nebular rings when they first formed 4.6 billion years ago. Neither Titius nor Bode ever explained how the strange numerical progression was derived. Titius may just have kept trying different sequences until he fortuitously found one that best matched the positions of the planets then known.
The existence of the new unknown planet (which I have named Muriel), cannot be proved until it is located and verified by astronomers. I have given the name Bode to the planet that formerly orbited between Mars and Jupiter until it exploded billions of years ago and broke up into Asteroid Belt fragments.