Strong and shallow M6.6 earthquake hits Andreanof Islands, Alaska
A strong and shallow earthquake registered by the USGS as M6.6 hit the Andreanof Islands, Aleutian Islands, Alaska at 21:57 UTC on August 15, 2018. The agency is reporting a depth of 31.6 km (19.6 miles). EMSC is reporting M6.6 at a depth of 40 km (24.8 miles). According to the USGS, the epicenter was located 41 km (25 miles) S of Tanaga volcano, 108 km (67 miles) WSW of Adak (population 332), Alaska and 1 477 km (918 miles) ESE of Klyuchi (population 10 000), Russia. There are no people living within 100 km (62 miles). Based on all available data, there is no tsunami threat from this earthquake, PTWC said. The USGS issued a green alert for shaking-related fatalities and economic losses. There is a low likelihood of casualties and damage. Overall, the population in this region resides in structures that are resistant to earthquake shaking, though vulnerable structures exist. The predominant vulnerable building types are…

New evidence for the existence of Planet Nine 2015 BP519

The solar system just got a bit stranger. As astronomers continue their ongoing quest to find the elusive Planet Nine, a team found a space rock that lends credence to the idea that a huge super-Earth planet really exists in the outer reaches of our solar system.
The newfound asteroid, called 2015 BP519, adds to a growing body of evidence about little worlds in the solar system being perturbed by something big. Astronomers detailed its discovery and description in a new paper, adding that the bizarre angle of its orbit gives more weight to the idea that a big planet is out there — somewhere — tugging on the asteroid's path around the sun. 
"We also consider the long-term orbital stability and evolutionary behavior within the context of the Planet Nine hypothesis, and find that 2015 BP519 adds to the circumstantial evidence for the existence of this proposed new member of the solar system," read the abstract of the paper, which is available now on preprint website Arxiv and has been submitted to The Astronomical Journal. [How Astronomers Could Actually See 'Planet Nine']
Following up on the discovery, Quanta Magazine recently published an article surveying several astrophysicists who specialize in studying small worlds, including the discoverers of 2015 BP519. While not everybody agreed that Planet Nine was responsible for the strange orbit, the overwhelming majority agreed the new discovery gives more credence to the idea. "The second you put Planet Nine in the simulations, not only can you form objects like this object, but you absolutely do," lead author Juliette Becker, a graduate student at the University of Michigan, told Quanta. (You can look at the object's orbit online here.)
It's not the first time Planet Nine was blamed for pushing an object around. Back in 2014, before Planet Nine was officially hypothesized, astronomers Scott Sheppard and Chadwick Trujillo noticed orbital irregularities in several small bodies beyond Neptune's orbit. These included dwarf planet Sedna, a newfound object called 2012 VP113, and several other trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs).
Then, in January 2016, astronomers Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown saw more evidence of TNOs with perturbed orbits. They were the ones who first gave "Planet Nine" a name, size, and distance. They suggested that the mysterious planet could be 10 times more massive than Earth, located 600 astronomical units (AU) from the sun. (One AU is the average distance between the Earth and the sun, which is 93 million miles or 150 million kilometers.)
A flood of studies followed about TNOs and how Planet Nine might have affected their orbits; the following summary is just a sampling. Not all teams were enthusiastic, with one group from the Outer Solar System Origins Survey (OSSOS) cautioning that many of these surveys could be just observational bias
But astronomers persisted, with Sheppard and Trujillo discovering at least two new TNOs possibly affected by Planet Nine. Another study showed Planet Nine perhaps influenced the tilt of planets in our solar system. And in 2017, astronomers from the University of Madrid in Spain found peculiarities in the orbits of 22 "extreme" TNOs that orbit the sun that could also be explained by a large, distant body exerting gravitational influence. (These TNOs never get closer to the sun than Neptune — which is 30 AU away, orbiting the sun in a rough circle — and have an average distance of at least 150 AU.)
By October 2017, Batygin said, there were at least five different lines of evidence that suggest the existence of the planet. "If you were to remove this explanation and imagine Planet Nine does not exist, then you generate more problems than you solve. All of a sudden, you have five different puzzles, and you must come up with five different theories to explain them," he said in a statement.
The solar system might once more have a ninth planet. No, Pluto still isn’t back. Instead, the new planetary candidate takes the form of a mysterious, yet-to-be spotted planet hiding deep in the outer reaches of the solar system.

Despite its elusive nature, here’s what we do know about the possible planet.
Where did this all begin? 
The story actually starts with another celestial object: 2015 BP519, as described in a paper published on arXiv. The team of researchers notes that the object, classified as an “Extreme Trans-Neptunian Object” due to its size and distance from the Sun, has been on the team’s radar since 2014.
How did they find 2015 BP519 in the first place?
The massive team of astronomers spent 1,110 days tracking the orbit of 2015 BP519 (which honestly should also be declared a planet or something just so it can be named after a Roman deity and not a bunch of numbers and letters) as part of the Dark Energy Survey Collaboration using a Dark Energy Camera from an observatory in Chile. BP519 caught their attention because it has a weird orbit.
Weird how?
Researchers found that 2015 BP519 travels as far as about 450 times the distance between the Sun and Earth, and it also has the most inclined orbit of any known Extreme Trans-Neptunian Object, traveling almost perpendicular to the rest of the planets and objects in our solar system.
This strange orbit is an anomaly in the solar system.
What does this have to do with Planet Nine?
That orbit, researchers posit, may be caused by the gravity of a distant ninth planet that would have to be four times the size of Earth, but ten times as dense. Without such a planet, 2015 BP519’s behavior stands out, and researchers couldn’t come up with a model that accounted for it. But its strangely-tilted path through space is explained by existing models and hypotheses of planet nine.
But it’s not a sure thing? 
Not quite. If more inclined orbits are discovered down the road, then that will only solidify the idea that some massive object out there is exerting a whole load of gravitational force on objects in the outer solar system. The researchers who tracked 2015 BP519 suspect that it began with a more normal orbit that was then pulled out of alignment by planet nine.
This doesn’t mean that there’s definitely a new (sorry again, Pluto fans) ninth planet out there. And even if there is, it will be exceptionally difficult to actually spot it, since its so far away that one year would last 10-20 thousand Earth years. But given everything that we mathematically know about how the solar system works, it’s likely there’s something out there affecting the orbits of objects like 2015 BP519.

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