New York Times
A pair of American spacecraft may help scientists detect what could be a 10th planet or a giant object billions of miles away, the national Aeronautics and Space Administration said Thursday. Scientists at the space agency's Ames Research Center said the two spacecraft, Pioneer 10 and 11, which are already farther into space than any other man-made object, might add to knowledge of a mysterious object believed to be beyond the solar system's outermost known planets. The space agency said that persistent irregularities in the orbits of Uranus and Neptune "suggest some kind of mystery object is really there" with its distance depending on what it is. If the mystery object is a new planet, it may lie 5 billion miles beyond the outer orbital ring of known planets, the space agency said. If it is a dark star type of object, it may be 50 billion miles beyond the known planets; if it is a black hole, 100 billion miles. A black hole is a hypothetical body in space, believed to be a collapsed star so condensed that neither light nor matter can escape from its gravitational field.