Search for Planet Nine

Students

2020
College

Faculty

Associate Professor and Undergraduate Chair

Project Summary

My project over the summer with Professor Sako from Physics and Astronomy department was to search for objects in the peripheral areas of our Solar System. Specifically, we were looking for undiscovered Transneptunian Objects (TNO), objects beyond Neptune. This research was motivated by proposition of Planet Nine by Mike Brown and Kostantin Batygin at Caltech in January 2016 upon noticing the clustering of TNO in a particular region of the sky. Since such clustering could only occur under very rare circumstance in the evolution of Solar System, the existence of a massive object has been suggested to account for this finding.

In order to find TNOs, I worked on developing TNO finding algorithm with my two teammates and we have managed to make an algorithm that could find candidates for planet nine-like objects and other TNOs. However, we still do have issues yet to be fixed, and there are improvements we could make in the future to further reduce false positives and increase efficiency. Additionally, we need to modify the algorithm to make it run faster. Each time I ran the code on real data from the supernova survey, I was reminded of the necessity of a fast algorithm that could deal with massive data. Otherwise we could be waiting for over half a month for the code to finish processing the data.

My participation in this research project has confirmed my decision to major in physics and elevated my interests in research in general. Although I am fairly certain that I will continue to do research in physics in the future, this experience has encouraged me to appreciate the quest of knowledge across different disciplines, even in fields virtually disconnected from physics, such as literature. I have written short stories as my main hobby besides chess and now I am considering learning more about literary theory and reading research papers in literature as well. I am looking forward to do more research in the future.