As scientists continue to search for the mysterious Planet Nine in space, two researchers from Queen's University Belfast in Northern Ireland are looking for clues in medieval tapestries.
The Existence of Planet Nine
In 2014, the scientific community began to debate the existence of Planet Nine. For years, most people believed that Pluto was the ninth planet in our solar system, but it was downgraded to a dwarf planet in 2006.
Some scientists believe that Planet Nine's existence would explain the gravitational influence in the distribution of orbits in the Kuiper Belt, a disc in the outer solar system filled with icy remnants from billions of years ago. In 2016, scientists inferred the possible existence of Planet Nine based on modeling work.
Despite the research, no one has been able to see Planet Nine in the skies. There are even some scientists who are skeptical about Planet's Nine existence. Researchers are still scanning the skies to find the planet.
Why Use Medieval Tapestry?
Queen's University Belfast's Marilina Cesario, a medievalist, and Pedro Lacerda, an astronomer, are teaming up to use tapestries and scrolls from the from the Middle Ages to try to prove the existence of Planet Nine. They believe that Anglo Saxons might have discovered the planet and recorded their findings in tapestries.
"Taking a gander at records of comets in Old English, Latin, Old Irish and Russian writings we expect to demonstrate that the early medieval individuals really recorded real galactic perceptions, mirroring their enthusiasm for cosmology and comprehension of the sky," said Cesario.
Historians know that people in the Middles Ages were fascinated by the heavens. The tapestries had dates and times, which can be very useful to scientists today.
"We can take the orbits of comets currently known and use a computer to calculate the times when those comets would be visible in the skies during the Middle Ages," said Lacerda. "The precise times depend on whether our computer simulations include Planet Nine. So, in simple terms, we can use the medieval comet sightings to check which computer simulations work best: the ones that include Planet Nine or the ones that do not."
Lacerda and Cesario just opened an exhibition at the Ulster Museum in Belfast entitled, "Marvelling at the skies: Comets Through the Eyes of the Anglo-Saxons." The exhibition combines modern images of comets from scientists with tapestries from the Middle Ages.
"It is fantastic to be able to use data about 1,000 years old to investigate a current theory," Lacerda said.