Los Angeles: In January this year, the existence of 'Planet Nine' was predicted by scientists. In August, scientists said that Planet Nine, which is believed to be present in our outer solar system, could cause the elimination of at least one of the giant planets after the Sun dies, hurling them out into interstellar space through a sort of "pinball" effect.
Now, a new study has suggested that the undiscovered solar body might be the reason behind the unusual tilt of the sun.
Researchers believe that Planet Nine may be adding a wobble to the solar system, giving the sun a slightly tilted appearance.
"Because Planet Nine is so massive and has an orbit tilted compared to the other planets, the solar system has no choice but to slowly twist out of alignment," said Elizabeth Bailey, a graduate student at California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in the US.
All of the planets orbit in a flat plane with respect to the Sun, roughly within a couple degrees of each other.
That plane, however, rotates at a six-degree tilt with respect to the Sun - giving the appearance that the Sun itself is cocked off at an angle. Until now, no one had found a compelling explanation to produce such an effect.
The discovery of evidence that the Sun is orbited by an as-yet-unseen planet - that is about 10 times the size of Earth with an orbit that is about 20 times farther from the Sun on average than Neptune's - changes our understanding of physics.
Planet Nine, based on the researchers' calculations, appears to orbit at about 30 degrees off from the other planets' orbital plane - in the process, influencing the orbit of a large population of objects in the Kuiper Belt, which is how they came to suspect a planet existed there in the first place.
The tilt of the solar system's orbital plane has long befuddled astronomers because of the way the planets formed: as a spinning cloud slowly collapsing first into a disk and then into objects orbiting a central star.
Planet Nine's angular momentum is having an out-sized impact on the solar system based on its location and size.
Since the other planets in the solar system all exist along a flat plane, their angular momentum works to keep the whole disk spinning smoothly.
The finding was published in the Astrophysical Journal.
(With PTI inputs)