· ·

A new computer simulation suggest our early Solar System was inhabited by a fifth giant planet

a-new-computer-simulation-suggest-our-early-solar-system-was-inhabited-by-a-fifth-giant-planet

A new research, published on August 10, 2015, suggests a cluster of icy bodies located in the same areas as Pluto, might prove our early Solar System was inhabited by a fifth giant planet. During Neptune's migration, 4 billion years ago, the ice giant might have jumped into it's current orbit and scattered a cluster of it's satellites into the outer solar system, the Kuiper belt.

A cluster of about thousand icy rocks, the so-called "kernel" of the Kuiper belt, is an old mystery for astronomers. The rocks hover close to one another and never change it's moving direction from the same orbital plane as the planets, unlike other icy bodies that constitute the belt.

Previous research suggested the objects bound this way could have formed during a violent collision of bigger parent bodies. However, it turned out the collisional families would have to be stretched along the Kuiper belt, which proved the proposition invalid.

David Nesvorný, an astronomer at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, used the computer simulation to investigate the "kernel" movement about 4 billion years ago, and he discovered the objects had been swept into Neptune's gravitational field, as the moved away from the Sun. According to the simulation results Neptune pulled bits of the primordial solar system along with it, as they rotated in tandem. 

At a distance of about 4.2 billion kilometers from the Sun, the orbit of Neptune made an abrupt movement outward for about 7.5 million kilometers. The objects trapped within the orbit, were unable to keep up with this abrupt change of pace, and were, consequently, thrown out of their orbit 6.9 billion kilometers away from the Sun, where they remain today, and travel as "the kernel".

This type of abrupt orbit shift can take place if Neptune became caught in a gravitational hold of another giant object. Uranus, Saturn or Jupiter aren't considered as good candidates as their orbits are not known to have previously interacted with Neptune's in this way.

Destiny of this unknown giant is a mystery too, however, the 2011 model showed the best way to end up with the present orbital configuration of the Solar System bodies is to include it into the computational model. The fifth giant was likely ejected from the Solar System after causing an obstruction to the original orbital configuration of the Solar System bodies.

“The Kuiper belt is the clue. You see the structures there, and you try to figure out what kind of evolution would fit those structures,” Nesvorný explained.

"What Nesvorný's models are doing is being very self-consistent and getting multiple structures right at once, which is really quite amazing," said JJ Kavelaars of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Victoria, Canada, who was not involved in the research in question.

Nesvorný explained another important step is to identify more objects in the Kuiper belt, especially in it's "kernel", which could help in conducting more precise comparisons that would improve the current model. The scientist hopes that observations to be conducted during the Outer Solar System Origins Survey (OSSOS) later this summer could help in filling out a few gaps.

"I'm very much looking forward to seeing what kind of observations they will have and how it fits the modeling," Nesvorný added.

Source: Science AAAS, The Abstract of the paper – The Astronomical Journal

Reference:

Featured image: An artist's impression of a Kuiper Belt object (KBO), located on the outer rim of our Solar System at a distance of 6.5 billion kilometers from the Sun, October 16, 2014. Image credit: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI)

If you value what we do here, create your ad-free account and support our journalism.

Share:


Your support makes a difference

Dear valued reader,

We hope that our website has been a valuable resource for you.

The reality is that it takes a lot of time, effort, and resources to maintain and grow this website. We rely on the support of readers like you to keep providing high-quality content.

If you have found our website to be helpful, please consider making a contribution to help us continue to bring you the information you need. Your support means the world to us and helps us to keep doing what we love.

Support us by choosing your support level – Silver, Gold or Platinum. Other support options include Patreon pledges and sending us a one-off payment using PayPal.

Thank you for your consideration. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,
Teo Blašković

$5 /month

  • Ad-free account
  • Clean user interface and fast browsing
  • Direct communication with us via chat and email
  • Suggest new features, content and applications
  • Early access to new apps and features

$50 /year

$10 /month

  • Ad-free account
  • Clean user interface and fast browsing
  • Direct communication with us via chat and email
  • Suggest new features, content and applications
  • Early access to new apps and features

$100 /year

$25 /month

  • Ad-free account
  • Clean user interface and fast browsing
  • Direct communication with us via chat and email
  • Suggest new features, content and applications
  • Early access to new apps and features

$200 /year

You can also support us on Patreon

support us on patreon

or by sending us a one-off payment using PayPal:


Commenting rules and guidelines

We value the thoughts and opinions of our readers and welcome healthy discussions on our website. In order to maintain a respectful and positive community, we ask that all commenters follow these rules:

  • Treat others with kindness and respect.
  • Stay on topic and contribute to the conversation in a meaningful way.
  • Do not use abusive or hateful language.
  • Do not spam or promote unrelated products or services.
  • Do not post any personal information or content that is illegal, obscene, or otherwise inappropriate.

We reserve the right to remove any comments that violate these rules. By commenting on our website, you agree to abide by these guidelines. Thank you for helping to create a positive and welcoming environment for all.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *