From University College London (UK) via Science Alert (US) : “Mysterious Object Glimpsed Decades Ago Might Have Actually Been Planet Nine”

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From University College London (UK)

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ScienceAlert

Science Alert (US)

16 NOVEMBER 2021
MICHELLE STARR

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Artistic rendering of Planet Nine. Credit: Tomruen/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0.

It’s one of the most intriguing questions about the Solar System from the last five years: Is there a large planet, lurking out in the cold dark reaches, on an orbit so wide it could take 20,000 years to complete?

The answer has proven elusive, but a new study reveals what could be traces of the mysterious hypothetical object’s existence.

Astronomer Michael Rowan-Robinson of The University College London (UK) conducted an analysis of data collected by the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) in 1983, and found a trio of point sources that just might be Planet Nine.

NASA/UK/NL Infrared Astronomical Survey IRAS spacecraft

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Six distant objects in the Solar System with orbits exclusively beyond Neptune (magenta) all line up in a single direction, and tilt nearly identically away from the plane of the Solar System. The orange ellipse indicates the hypothetical Planet Nine orbit required to maintain this configuration. Credit: R. Hurt/Caltech IPAC-Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (US).

This, Rowan-Robinson concludes in MNRAS, is actually fairly unlikely to be a real detection, but the possibility does mean that it could be used to model where the planet might be now in order to conduct a more targeted search, in the quest to confirm or rule out its existence.

“Given the poor quality of the IRAS detections, at the very limit of the survey, and in a very difficult part of the sky for far infrared detections, the probability of the candidate being real is not overwhelming,” he wrote.

“However, given the great interest of the Planet 9 hypothesis, it would be worthwhile to check whether an object with the proposed parameters and in the region of sky proposed, is inconsistent with the planetary ephemerides.”

Speculation about the existence of a hidden planet in the outer reaches of the Solar System has swirled for decades, but it reached a new pitch in 2016 with the publication of a paper proposing new evidence [The Astronomical Journal].

Astronomers Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin of The California Institute of Technology (US) found that small objects in the outer Solar System’s Kuiper Belt were orbiting oddly, as though pushed into a pattern under the gravitational influence of something large.

But finding the dratted thing is a lot more complicated than it might sound. If it is out there, it could be five to 10 times the mass of Earth, orbiting at a distance somewhere between 400 and 800 astronomical units (an astronomical unit is the average distance between Earth and the Sun; Pluto, for context, is around 40 astronomical units from the Sun).

This object is very far away, and quite small and cold and probably not reflecting much sunlight at all; and, moreover, we don’t know exactly where in the very large sky it is. So the jury is out on whether it is real or not, and the topic is one of pretty intense and interesting debate.

IRAS operated for 10 months from January 1983, taking a far-infrared survey of 96 percent of the sky. In this wavelength, small, cool objects like Planet Nine might be detectable, so Rowan-Robinson decided to re-analyze the data using parameters consistent with Planet Nine.

Of the around 250,000 point sources detected by the satellite, just three are of interest as a candidate for Planet Nine. In June, July, and September of 1983, the satellite picked out what appears to be an object moving across the sky.

It’s not a dead cert, by a long shot. The region of sky in which the source appears is at low galactic latitude (that is, close to the plane of the galaxy), and strongly affected by galactic cirrus, filamentary clouds that glow in far-infrared. So it’s possible that the sources are noise from these clouds.

Rowan-Robinson also notes that another highly sensitive survey, Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS), in operation since 2008, has failed to recover the candidate.

U Hawaii Pan-STARRS1 (PS1) Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System is a 1.8-meter diameter telescope situated at Haleakala Observatories near the summit of Haleakala, altitude 10,023 ft (3,055 m) on the Island of Maui, Hawaii, USA. It is equipped with the world’s largest digital camera, with almost 1.4 billion pixels.

However, if we interpret the candidate as real, we can extrapolate some information about Planet Nine. According to the IRAS data, it would be between three and five times the mass of Earth, at an orbital distance of around 225 astronomical units.

The motion of the source across the sky also gives us an idea of the potential planet’s orbit, telling us where in the sky we could be looking now, and where we can look in other data, such as that from Pan-STARRS.

“Dynamical studies are needed to check whether such an object is consistent with the ephemerides of other Solar System objects and whether this object can account for the clustering of the orbits of Kuiper belt dwarf planets,” Rowan-Robinson writes.

Kuiper Belt. Minor Planet Center.

“The IRAS detections are not of the highest quality but it would be worth searching at optical and near infrared wavelengths in an annulus of radius 2.5-4 deg centered on the 1983 position. This candidate could be ruled out if radio or other observations confirmed the reality (and stationarity) of the IRAS sources at the 1983 … positions.”

See the full article here .

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Established in 1826, as London University by founders inspired by the radical ideas of Jeremy Bentham, University College London (UK) was the first university institution to be established in London, and the first in England to be entirely secular and to admit students regardless of their religion. University College London (UK) also makes contested claims to being the third-oldest university in England and the first to admit women. In 1836, University College London (UK) became one of the two founding colleges of the University of London (UK), which was granted a royal charter in the same year. It has grown through mergers, including with the Institute of Ophthalmology (in 1995); the Institute of Neurology (in 1997); the Royal Free Hospital Medical School (in 1998); the Eastman Dental Institute (in 1999); the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (in 1999); the School of Pharmacy (in 2012) and the Institute of Education (in 2014).

University College London (UK) has its main campus in the Bloomsbury area of central London, with a number of institutes and teaching hospitals elsewhere in central London and satellite campuses in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, east London and in Doha, Qatar. University College London (UK) is organised into 11 constituent faculties, within which there are over 100 departments, institutes and research centres. University College London (UK) operates several museums and collections in a wide range of fields, including the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology and the Grant Museum of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy, and administers the annual Orwell Prize in political writing. In 2019/20, UCL had around 43,840 students and 16,400 staff (including around 7,100 academic staff and 840 professors) and had a total income of £1.54 billion, of which £468 million was from research grants and contracts.

University College London (UK) is a member of numerous academic organisations, including the Russell Group(UK) and the League of European Research Universities, and is part of UCL Partners, the world’s largest academic health science centre, and is considered part of the “golden triangle” of elite, research-intensive universities in England.

University College London (UK) has many notable alumni, including the respective “Fathers of the Nation” of India; Kenya and Mauritius; the founders of Ghana; modern Japan; Nigeria; the inventor of the telephone; and one of the co-discoverers of the structure of DNA. UCL academics discovered five of the naturally occurring noble gases; discovered hormones; invented the vacuum tube; and made several foundational advances in modern statistics. As of 2020, 34 Nobel Prize winners and 3 Fields medalists have been affiliated with UCL as alumni, faculty or researchers.

History

University College London (UK) was founded on 11 February 1826 under the name London University, as an alternative to the Anglican universities of the University of Oxford(UK) and University of Cambridge(UK). London University’s first Warden was Leonard Horner, who was the first scientist to head a British university.

Despite the commonly held belief that the philosopher Jeremy Bentham was the founder of University College London (UK), his direct involvement was limited to the purchase of share No. 633, at a cost of £100 paid in nine installments between December 1826 and January 1830. In 1828 he did nominate a friend to sit on the council, and in 1827 attempted to have his disciple John Bowring appointed as the first professor of English or History, but on both occasions his candidates were unsuccessful. This suggests that while his ideas may have been influential, he himself was less so. However, Bentham is today commonly regarded as the “spiritual father” of University College London (UK), as his radical ideas on education and society were the inspiration to the institution’s founders, particularly the Scotsmen James Mill (1773–1836) and Henry Brougham (1778–1868).

In 1827, the Chair of Political Economy at London University was created, with John Ramsay McCulloch as the first incumbent, establishing one of the first departments of economics in England. In 1828 the university became the first in England to offer English as a subject and the teaching of Classics and medicine began. In 1830, London University founded the London University School, which would later become University College School. In 1833, the university appointed Alexander Maconochie, Secretary to the Royal Geographical Society, as the first professor of geography in the British Isles. In 1834, University College Hospital (originally North London Hospital) opened as a teaching hospital for the university’s medical school.

1836 to 1900 – University College, London

In 1836, London University was incorporated by royal charter under the name University College, London. On the same day, the University of London was created by royal charter as a degree-awarding examining board for students from affiliated schools and colleges, with University College and King’s College, London being named in the charter as the first two affiliates.

The Slade School of Fine Art was founded as part of University College in 1871, following a bequest from Felix Slade.

In 1878, the University College London (UK) gained a supplemental charter making it the first British university to be allowed to award degrees to women. The same year University College London (UK) admitted women to the faculties of Arts and Law and of Science, although women remained barred from the faculties of Engineering and of Medicine (with the exception of courses on public health and hygiene). While University College London (UK) claims to have been the first university in England to admit women on equal terms to men, from 1878, the University of Bristol(UK) also makes this claim, having admitted women from its foundation (as a college) in 1876. Armstrong College, a predecessor institution of Newcastle University (UK), also allowed women to enter from its foundation in 1871, although none actually enrolled until 1881. Women were finally admitted to medical studies during the First World War in 1917, although limitations were placed on their numbers after the war ended.

In 1898, Sir William Ramsay discovered the elements krypton; neon; and xenon whilst professor of chemistry at University College London (UK).

1900 to 1976 – University of London, University College

In 1900, the University College London (UK) was reconstituted as a federal university with new statutes drawn up under the University of London Act 1898. UCL, along with a number of other colleges in London, became a school of the University of London. While most of the constituent institutions retained their autonomy, University College London (UK) was merged into the University in 1907 under the University College London (Transfer) Act 1905 and lost its legal independence. Its formal name became University College London (UK), University College, although for most informal and external purposes the name “University College, London” (or the initialism UCL) was still used.

1900 also saw the decision to appoint a salaried head of the college. The first incumbent was Carey Foster, who served as Principal (as the post was originally titled) from 1900 to 1904. He was succeeded by Gregory Foster (no relation), and in 1906 the title was changed to Provost to avoid confusion with the Principal of the University of London. Gregory Foster remained in post until 1929. In 1906, the Cruciform Building was opened as the new home for University College Hospital.

As it acknowledged and apologized for in 2021, University College London (UK) played “a fundamental role in the development, propagation and legitimisation of eugenics” during the first half of the 20th century. Among the prominent eugenicists who taught at University College London (UK) were Francis Galton, who coined the term “eugenics”, and Karl Pearson, and eugenics conferences were held at UCL until 2017.

University College London (UK) sustained considerable bomb damage during the Second World War, including the complete destruction of the Great Hall and the Carey Foster Physics Laboratory. Fires gutted the library and destroyed much of the main building, including the dome. The departments were dispersed across the country to Aberystwyth; Bangor; Gwynedd; University of Cambridge (UK) ; University of Oxford (UK); Rothamsted near Harpenden; Hertfordshire; and Sheffield, with the administration at Stanstead Bury near Ware, Hertfordshire. The first UCL student magazine, Pi, was published for the first time on 21 February 1946. The Institute of Jewish Studies relocated to UCL in 1959.

The Mullard Space Science Laboratory(UK) was established in 1967. In 1973, UCL became the first international node to the precursor of the internet, the ARPANET.

Although University College London (UK) was among the first universities to admit women on the same terms as men, in 1878, the college’s senior common room, the Housman Room, remained men-only until 1969. After two unsuccessful attempts, a motion was passed that ended segregation by sex at University College London (UK). This was achieved by Brian Woledge (Fielden Professor of French at University College London (UK) from 1939 to 1971) and David Colquhoun, at that time a young lecturer in pharmacology.

1976 to 2005 – University College London (UK)

In 1976, a new charter restored University College London (UK) ‘s legal independence, although still without the power to award its own degrees. Under this charter the college became formally known as University College London (UK). This name abandoned the comma used in its earlier name of “University College, London”.

In 1986, University College London (UK) merged with the Institute of Archaeology. In 1988, University College London (UK) merged with the Institute of Laryngology & Otology; the Institute of Orthopaedics; the Institute of Urology & Nephrology; and Middlesex Hospital Medical School.

In 1993, a reorganisation of the University of London (UK) meant that University College London (UK) and other colleges gained direct access to government funding and the right to confer University of London degrees themselves. This led to University College London (UK) being regarded as a de facto university in its own right.

In 1994, the University College London (UK) Hospitals NHS Trust was established. University College London (UK) merged with the College of Speech Sciences and the Institute of Ophthalmology in 1995; the Institute of Child Health and the School of Podiatry in 1996; and the Institute of Neurology in 1997. In 1998, UCL merged with the Royal Free Hospital Medical School to create the Royal Free and University College Medical School (renamed the University College London (UK) Medical School in October 2008). In 1999, UCL merged with the School of Slavonic and East European Studies and the Eastman Dental Institute.

The University College London (UK) Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science, the first university department in the world devoted specifically to reducing crime, was founded in 2001.

Proposals for a merger between University College London (UK) and Imperial College London(UK) were announced in 2002. The proposal provoked strong opposition from University College London (UK) teaching staff and students and the AUT union, which criticised “the indecent haste and lack of consultation”, leading to its abandonment by University College London (UK) provost Sir Derek Roberts. The blogs that helped to stop the merger are preserved, though some of the links are now broken: see David Colquhoun’s blog and the Save University College London (UK) blog, which was run by David Conway, a postgraduate student in the department of Hebrew and Jewish studies.

The London Centre for Nanotechnology was established in 2003 as a joint venture between University College London (UK) and Imperial College London (UK). They were later joined by King’s College London(UK) in 2018.

Since 2003, when University College London (UK) professor David Latchman became master of the neighbouring Birkbeck, he has forged closer relations between these two University of London colleges, and personally maintains departments at both. Joint research centres include the UCL/Birkbeck Institute for Earth and Planetary Sciences; the University College London (UK) /Birkbeck/IoE Centre for Educational Neuroscience; the University College London (UK) /Birkbeck Institute of Structural and Molecular Biology; and the Birkbeck- University College London (UK) Centre for Neuroimaging.

2005 to 2010

In 2005, University College London (UK) was finally granted its own taught and research degree awarding powers and all University College London (UK) students registered from 2007/08 qualified with University College London (UK) degrees. Also in 2005, University College London (UK) adopted a new corporate branding under which the name University College London (UK) was replaced by the initialism UCL in all external communications. In the same year, a major new £422 million building was opened for University College Hospital on Euston Road, the University College London (UK) Ear Institute was established and a new building for the University College London (UK) School of Slavonic and East European Studies was opened.

In 2007, the University College London (UK) Cancer Institute was opened in the newly constructed Paul O’Gorman Building. In August 2008, University College London (UK) formed UCL Partners, an academic health science centre, with Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust; Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust; Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust; and University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. In 2008, University College London (UK) established the University College London (UK) School of Energy & Resources in Adelaide, Australia, the first campus of a British university in the country. The School was based in the historic Torrens Building in Victoria Square and its creation followed negotiations between University College London (UK) Vice Provost Michael Worton and South Australian Premier Mike Rann.

In 2009, the Yale UCL Collaborative was established between University College London (UK); UCL Partners; Yale University(US); Yale School of Medicine; and Yale – New Haven Hospital. It is the largest collaboration in the history of either university, and its scope has subsequently been extended to the humanities and social sciences.

2010 to 2015

In June 2011, the mining company BHP Billiton agreed to donate AU$10 million to University College London (UK) to fund the establishment of two energy institutes – the Energy Policy Institute; based in Adelaide, and the Institute for Sustainable Resources, based in London.

In November 2011, University College London (UK) announced plans for a £500 million investment in its main Bloomsbury campus over 10 years, as well as the establishment of a new 23-acre campus next to the Olympic Park in Stratford in the East End of London. It revised its plans of expansion in East London and in December 2014 announced to build a campus (UCL East) covering 11 acres and provide up to 125,000m^2 of space on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. UCL East will be part of plans to transform the Olympic Park into a cultural and innovation hub, where University College London (UK) will open its first school of design, a centre of experimental engineering and a museum of the future, along with a living space for students.

The School of Pharmacy, University of London merged with University College London (UK) on 1 January 2012, becoming the University College London (UK) School of Pharmacy within the Faculty of Life Sciences. In May 2012, University College London (UK), Imperial College London and the semiconductor company Intel announced the establishment of the Intel Collaborative Research Institute for Sustainable Connected Cities, a London-based institute for research into the future of cities.

In August 2012, University College London (UK) received criticism for advertising an unpaid research position; it subsequently withdrew the advert.

University College London (UK) and the Institute of Education formed a strategic alliance in October 2012, including co-operation in teaching, research and the development of the London schools system. In February 2014, the two institutions announced their intention to merge, and the merger was completed in December 2014.

In September 2013, a new Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (STEaPP) was established within the Faculty of Engineering, one of several initiatives within the university to increase and reflect upon the links between research and public sector decision-making.

In October 2013, it was announced that the Translation Studies Unit of Imperial College London would move to University College London (UK), becoming part of the University College London (UK) School of European Languages, Culture and Society. In December 2013, it was announced that University College London (UK) and the academic publishing company Elsevier would collaborate to establish the UCL Big Data Institute. In January 2015, it was announced that University College London (UK) had been selected by the UK government as one of the five founding members of the Alan Turing Institute(UK) (together with the universities of Cambridge, University of Edinburgh(SCL), Oxford and University of Warwick(UK)), an institute to be established at the British Library to promote the development and use of advanced mathematics, computer science, algorithms and big data.

2015 to 2020

In August 2015, the Department of Management Science and Innovation was renamed as the School of Management and plans were announced to greatly expand University College London (UK) ‘s activities in the area of business-related teaching and research. The school moved from the Bloomsbury campus to One Canada Square in Canary Wharf in 2016.

University College London (UK) established the Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS) in 2015 to promote interdisciplinary research in humanities and social sciences. The prestigious annual Orwell Prize for political writing moved to the IAS in 2016.

In June 2016 it was reported in Times Higher Education that as a result of administrative errors hundreds of students who studied at the UCL Eastman Dental Institute between 2005–06 and 2013–14 had been given the wrong marks, leading to an unknown number of students being attributed with the wrong qualifications and, in some cases, being failed when they should have passed their degrees. A report by University College London (UK) ‘s Academic Committee Review Panel noted that, according to the institute’s own review findings, senior members of University College London (UK) staff had been aware of issues affecting students’ results but had not taken action to address them. The Review Panel concluded that there had been an apparent lack of ownership of these matters amongst the institute’s senior staff.

In December 2016 it was announced that University College London (UK) would be the hub institution for a new £250 million national dementia research institute, to be funded with £150 million from the Medical Research Council and £50 million each from Alzheimer’s Research UK and the Alzheimer’s Society.

In May 2017 it was reported that staff morale was at “an all time low”, with 68% of members of the academic board who responded to a survey disagreeing with the statement ” University College London (UK) is well managed” and 86% with “the teaching facilities are adequate for the number of students”. Michael Arthur, the Provost and President, linked the results to the “major change programme” at University College London (UK). He admitted that facilities were under pressure following growth over the past decade, but said that the issues were being addressed through the development of UCL East and rental of other additional space.

In October 2017 University College London (UK) ‘s council voted to apply for university status while remaining part of the University of London. University College London (UK) ‘s application to become a university was subject to Parliament passing a bill to amend the statutes of the University of London, which received royal assent on 20 December 2018.

The University College London (UK) Adelaide satellite campus closed in December 2017, with academic staff and student transferring to the University of South Australia(AU). As of 2019 UniSA and University College London (UK) are offering a joint masters qualification in Science in Data Science (international).

In 2018, University College London (UK) opened UCL at Here East, at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, offering courses jointly between the Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment and the Faculty of Engineering Sciences. The campus offers a variety of undergraduate and postgraduate master’s degrees, with the first undergraduate students, on a new Engineering and Architectural Design MEng, starting in September 2018. It was announced in August 2018 that a £215 million contract for construction of the largest building in the UCL East development, Marshgate 1, had been awarded to Mace, with building to begin in 2019 and be completed by 2022.

In 2017 University College London (UK) disciplined an IT administrator who was also the University and College Union (UCU) branch secretary for refusing to take down an unmoderated staff mailing list. An employment tribunal subsequently ruled that he was engaged in union activities and thus this disciplinary action was unlawful. As of June 2019 University College London (UK) is appealing this ruling and the UCU congress has declared this to be a “dispute of national significance”.

2020 to present

In 2021 University College London (UK) formed a strategic partnership with Facebook AI Research (FAIR), including the creation of a new PhD programme.

Research

University College London (UK) has made cross-disciplinary research a priority and orientates its research around four “Grand Challenges”, Global Health, Sustainable Cities, Intercultural Interaction and Human Wellbeing.

In 2014/15, University College London (UK) had a total research income of £427.5 million, the third-highest of any British university (after the University of Oxford and Imperial College London). Key sources of research income in that year were BIS research councils (£148.3 million); UK-based charities (£106.5 million); UK central government; local/health authorities and hospitals (£61.5 million); EU government bodies (£45.5 million); and UK industry, commerce and public corporations (£16.2 million). In 2015/16, University College London (UK) was awarded a total of £85.8 million in grants by UK research councils, the second-largest amount of any British university (after the University of Oxford), having achieved a 28% success rate. For the period to June 2015, University College London (UK) was the fifth-largest recipient of Horizon 2020 EU research funding and the largest recipient of any university, with €49.93 million of grants received. University College London (UK) also had the fifth-largest number of projects funded of any organisation, with 94.

According to a ranking of universities produced by SCImago Research Group University College London (UK) is ranked 12th in the world (and 1st in Europe) in terms of total research output. According to data released in July 2008 by ISI Web of Knowledge, University College London (UK) is the 13th most-cited university in the world (and most-cited in Europe). The analysis covered citations from 1 January 1998 to 30 April 2008, during which 46,166 UCL research papers attracted 803,566 citations. The report covered citations in 21 subject areas and the results revealed some of University College London (UK) ‘s key strengths, including: Clinical Medicine (1st outside North America); Immunology (2nd in Europe); Neuroscience & Behaviour (1st outside North America and 2nd in the world); Pharmacology & Toxicology (1st outside North America and 4th in the world); Psychiatry & Psychology (2nd outside North America); and Social Sciences, General (1st outside North America).

University College London (UK) submitted a total of 2,566 staff across 36 units of assessment to the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) assessment, in each case the highest number of any UK university (compared with 1,793 UCL staff submitted to the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE 2008)). In the REF results 43% of University College London (UK) ‘s submitted research was classified as 4* (world-leading); 39% as 3* (internationally excellent); 15% as 2* (recognised internationally) and 2% as 1* (recognised nationally), giving an overall GPA of 3.22 (RAE 2008: 4* – 27%, 3* – 39%, 2* – 27% and 1* – 6%). In rankings produced by Times Higher Education based upon the REF results, University College London (UK) was ranked 1st overall for “research power” and joint 8th for GPA (compared to 4th and 7th respectively in equivalent rankings for the RAE 2008).