Scientists have studied a centuries worth of comet data and come to the conclusion that at least 20 percent of visible comets were kicked out of the Oort Cloud by a Jupiter-sized object lurking at the solar system’s outer edge. Eighty percent of objects pushed out of the Oort cloud could be explained by the gravity of the galaxy, but the remaining comets would have required an object 1.4 times the mass of Jupiter to kick them out.
In 1999, Matese and colleague Daniel Whitmire suggested the sun has a hidden companion that boots icy bodies from the Oort Cloud, a spherical haze of comets at the solar system’s fringes, into the inner solar system where we can see them.
In a new analysis of observations dating back to 1898, Matese and Whitmire confirm their original idea: About 20 percent of the comets visible from Earth were sent by a dark, distant planet.
An object such as a brown dwarf would knock out more than 20 percent, but “Something smaller than Jovian mass wouldn’t be strong enough to do the deed,” Matese said.