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"Far beyond the solar system's nine known planets, a body as massive as Mars may once have been part of our planetary system - and it might still be there;" The lead paragraph in a science-fiction script? The lead paragraph from an article by Zecharia Sitchin about Nibiru? No. It is the lead paragraph in a report in Science News of April 7, 2001 headlined "A Comet's Odd Orbit Hints At Hidden Planet." The article reports the conclusions of an international team of astronomers who have studied an unusual comet discovered last year, designated 2000CR/105. It follows a vast elliptical orbit around our Sun, an orbit that takes it way out to some 4.5 billion kilometers from the Sun, and brings it back at its closest to the Sun to the vicinity of Neptune; it is an orbit whose period "takes roughly 3,300 years" (according to Sky&Telescope News of April 5, 2001).

"Such an oblong orbit is usually a sign that an object has come under the gravitational influence of a massive body," wrote R. Cowen in Science News. Was this the gravitational pull of Neptune? In a study to be published in the Journal Icarus, the team of astronomers (led by Brett Gladman of the Observatoire de la d'Azur in Nice, France), after analyzing all the possibilities, does not think so. An alternative solution, they say, is that "the comet's orbit could be the handiwork of an as-yet unseen planet" - as massive as Mars - "that would have to lie some 200 AU from the Sun," in the so-called Kuiper Belt of cometary and other planetary debris. This would also explain "why many members of the Belt have orbits that angle away from the plane in which the nine known planets orbit the Sun."

"Undoubtedly, something massive knocked the hell out of the Belt," Harold F. Levison of the Southwest Research institute in Boulder, Colorado, told the magazine. "The question is whether it is still there now." "Comet's Course Hints at Mystery Planet," was how the journal Science headlined the discovery news in its issue of 6 April 2001. The special report, written by the Dutch astronomer Govert Schilling, summed up the findings in the following lead paragraph: "A Supercomet following an unexpectedly far-flung path around the sun suggests that an unidentified planet once lurked in the outermost reaches of the solar system, an international team of astronomers reports. What's more, the mysterious object may still be there." ...

May 2001