Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Giant planet ejected from the solar system?

Date:
November 10, 2011
Source:
Southwest Research Institute
Summary:
Just as an expert chess player sacrifices a piece to protect the queen, the solar system may have given up a giant planet and spared the Earth, according to a new article.

Artist's impression of a planet ejected from the early solar system.
Credit: Image courtesy of Southwest Research Institute

Just as an expert chess player sacrifices a piece to protect the queen, the solar system may have given up a giant planet and spared Earth, according to an article recently published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

"We have all sorts of clues about the early evolution of the solar system," says author Dr. David Nesvorny of the Southwest Research Institute. "They come from the analysis of the trans-Neptunian population of small bodies known as the Kuiper Belt, and from the lunar cratering record."

These clues suggest that the orbits of giant planets were affected by a dynamical instability when the solar system was only about 600 million years old. As a result, the giant planets and smaller bodies scattered away from each other.

Some small bodies moved into the Kuiper Belt and others traveled inward, producing impacts on the terrestrial planets and the Moon. The giant planets moved as well. Jupiter, for example, scattered most small bodies outward and moved inward.

This scenario presents a problem, however. Slow changes in Jupiter's orbit, such as the ones expected from interaction with small bodies, would have conveyed too much momentum to the orbits of the terrestrial planets. Stirring up or disrupting the inner solar system and possibly causing Earth to collide with Mars or Venus.

"Colleagues suggested a clever way around this problem," says Nesvorny. "They proposed that Jupiter's orbit quickly changed when Jupiter scattered off of Uranus or Neptune during the dynamical instability in the outer solar system." The "jumping-Jupiter" theory, as it is known, is less harmful to the inner solar system, because the orbital coupling between the terrestrial planets and Jupiter is weak if Jupiter jumps.

Nesvorny conducted thousands of computer simulations of the early solar system to test the jumping-Jupiter theory. He found that, as hoped for, Jupiter did in fact jump by scattering from Uranus or Neptune. When it jumped, however, Uranus or Neptune was knocked out of the solar system. "Something was clearly wrong," he says.

Motivated by these results, Nesvorny wondered whether the early solar system could have had five giant planets instead of four. By running the simulations with an additional giant planet with mass similar to that of Uranus or Neptune, things suddenly fell in place. One planet was ejected from the solar system by Jupiter, leaving four giant planets behind, and Jupiter jumped, leaving the terrestrial planets undisturbed.

"The possibility that the solar system had more than four giant planets initially, and ejected some, appears to be conceivable in view of the recent discovery of a large number of free-floating planets in interstellar space, indicating the planet ejection process could be a common occurrence," says Nesvorny.

This research was funded by the National Lunar Science Institute and the National Science Foundation.

The paper, "Young Solar System's Fifth Giant Planet?" by Dr. David Nesvorny was published online by The Astrophysical Journal Letters.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Southwest Research Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Southwest Research Institute. "Giant planet ejected from the solar system?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 November 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111110142102.htm>.
Southwest Research Institute. (2011, November 10). Giant planet ejected from the solar system?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111110142102.htm
Southwest Research Institute. "Giant planet ejected from the solar system?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111110142102.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Supply Ship Takes Off for International Space Station

Supply Ship Takes Off for International Space Station

AFP (July 30, 2014) The European Space Agency's fifth Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-5) is takes off to the International Space Station on an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana. Duration: 00:34 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship

Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship

AP (July 30, 2014) Arianespace launched a rocket Tuesday from French Guiana carrying a robotic cargo ship to deliver provisions to the International Space Station. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

AP (July 30, 2014) Every summer, tourists make the pilgrimage to Chincoteague Island, Va. to see wild ponies cross the Assateague Channel. But, it's the rockets sending to supplies to the International Space Station that are making this a year-round destination. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Russia Saves Gecko Sex Satellite, Media Has Some Fun With It

Newsy (July 27, 2014) The satellite is back under ground control after a tense few days, but with a gecko sex experiment on board, the media just couldn't help themselves. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins