In Search of planet X, researchers believe that our solar system could have had a fifth “gas giant” that disappeared after colliding with Neptune.
David Nesvorny, an astronomer at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, thinks that the four gas giants we know today, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Uranus have a lost a member of their group, which disappeared when the solar system was very young. His theory appears in the September issue of the Astronomical Journal. According to the theory, the orbit of a cluster of icy bodies in the Kuiper belt, known as the “core”, suggests Neptune was forced out of its original orbit due to a significant impact with a larger body with it destroyed, creating several smaller bodies. “The Kuiper Belt is the key,” Nesvorny told Science. “You see the structures there and try to understand what kind of evolution affects them.”
Researchers state that the core of icy bodies has been an enigma for a long time, because, unlike the other Kuiper belt objects, they orbit the sun in the same way the inner planets do keeping a close distance between each other.
Nesvorny came up with an incredible idea on how to find out more about the solar system. He used computer simulations to roll back time to 4000 million years ago and discover how the objects came to be in that unusual orbit. The simulation results showed that the icy bodies that make up the core were once captured by Neptune’s gravity, that is, were its satellites
As the orbits of Jupiter (green), Saturn (orange), Neptune (dark blue), and Uranus (light blue) changed, gravitational interactions hurled icy bodies in the region known as the Kuiper Belt.
According to calculations by Nesvorny, when Neptune was located 4,200 million kilometers from the sun, moving towards its current position, its orbit had a sudden and drastic change, moving 7,500 million kilometers away from the sun. This “jump” caused several satellites of Neptune to be released, moving to the frontier of the solar system, and finally forming the core of icy bodies in the Kuiper Belt. According to Nesvorny, only one thing could change such a drastic change, releasing its satellites trapped in orbit, is another massive gravitational field, one of a giant planet.
Since the gas giant that are located in our solar system never “interacted” with the orbit of Neptune, another planet must have existed in the solar system millions of years ago responsible for the anomalous change in Neptune’s orbit. Nesvorny believes that this is the so-called “Planet X”.
It is still unclear as to what exactly happened to this “fifth gas giant” or planet x, but if Nesvorny’s calculations are accurate, it is very likely that this planet was expelled from the solar system family.
Source: Southwest Research Institute
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