The Oort Cloud is an enormous, spherical cloud of icy objects that surrounds our solar system. The Cloud is awesomely distant from us — somewhere between 5,000 and 100,000 times farther away from the Sun than the Sun is distant from the Earth. The outer reaches of the Oort Cloud are thought to be trillions of miles from the Sun. The Oort Cloud also is the source of many of the comets that eventually are tugged by the Sun’s gravity and fall toward Sol, with their tails of ice and debris spread behind them, sailing on the solar wind.
Now astronomers wonder whether the Oort Cloud hides some massive new planet that is four times the mass of Jupiter. Some scientists suspect such a planet is there, because they believe it explains otherwise inexplicable gravitational issues observed in comets. Others are skeptical. They are waiting until data from a NASA sky survey initiative is released later this year, because such data should either confirm or refute the theory.
It’s hard to imagine that an object that is four times the size of Jupiter could be lurking undetected in the outer boundaries of our solar system — but then the Oort Cloud is largely unexplored, and very far away. If the existence of a massive new planet is confirmed, it will just show, again, how much we have to learn about our little corner of the universe.