On the Detectability of Planet X with LSST

David E. Trilling, Eric C. Bellm, Renu Malhotra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Two planetary mass objects in the far outer solar system - collectively referred to here as Planet X - have recently been hypothesized to explain the orbital distribution of distant Kuiper Belt Objects. Neither planet is thought to be exceptionally faint, but the sky locations of these putative planets are poorly constrained. Therefore, a wide area survey is needed to detect these possible planets. The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) will carry out an unbiased, large area (around 18000 deg2), deep (limiting magnitude of individual frames of 24.5) survey (the "wide-fast-deep (WFD)" survey) of the southern sky beginning in 2022, and it will therefore be an important tool in searching for these hypothesized planets. Here, we explore the effectiveness of LSST as a search platform for these possible planets. Assuming the current baseline cadence (which includes the WFD survey plus additional coverage), we estimate that LSST will confidently detect or rule out the existence of Planet X in 61% of the entire sky. At orbital distances up to ∼75 au, Planet X could simply be found in the normal nightly moving object processing; at larger distances, it will require custom data processing. We also discuss the implications of a nondetection of Planet X in LSST data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number243
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2018


  • Kuiper belt: general
  • methods: observational
  • parallaxes
  • planets and satellites: detection
  • surveys

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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