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How long would it take to reach Planet 9, if we ever find it?




Some experts believe that we could be just a few years away from discovering the elusive "Planet Nine" — or ruling out the existence of the hypothetical world for good. 


an illustration showing the hypothetical Planet 9 with blue rings and a question mark over it, with stars and a galaxy in the background

(Image credit: Nicholas Forder for Live Science)

Planet Nine: Is the search for this elusive world nearly over?

Read more:

—5 space discoveries that scientists are struggling to explain

—8 strange objects that could be hiding in the outer solar system

—Vera C. Rubin Observatory: The groundbreaking mission to make a 10-year, time-lapse movie of the universe

But if we do find it, how long would it take for us to send a spacecraft to the far-flung world? And could humans ever make the trip?

Planet Nine is the name given to a proposed planet supposedly lurking near the edge of the solar system. If it exists, Planet Nine is likely a dark, gas or ice giant planet somewhere between five and 10 times the mass of Earth that circles the sun on a highly elliptical, or stretched, orbit — out of sync with the rest of the planets.

Researchers suspect Planet Nine is out there because around a dozen objects beyond the orbit of Neptune, move as if a large object is tugging on them. However, finding this missing world has proved to be extremely tricky.

But some astronomers believe Planet Nine could be discovered within the next few years once the state-of-the-art Vera C. Rubin Observatory starts to survey the night sky in late 2025. 

Related: Elusive Planet Nine could be surrounded by hot moons, and that's how we'd find it

If Planet Nine is ever detected, space agencies like NASA will want to send a probe to visit the distant world. But first, they will have to plan and get approval for such a mission.