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The search for the missing planet: Our early solar system may have had a fifth gas giant that disappeared after a crash with Neptune

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The search for the missing planet: Our early solar system may have had a fifth gas giant that disappeared after a crash with Neptune

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3194846/The-search-missing-planet-early-solar-fifth-gas-giant-disappeared-crash-Neptune.html#ixzz3icrp3To0

  • Group of rocks known as the kernel has a mysterious orbit in Kuiper belt
  • Astronomer David Nesvorny used a simulation to rewind 4 billion years
  • He discovered the kernel was once caught in Neptune’s gravitational pull
  • But a collision with a massive planet may have caused Neptune’s orbit to jump, freeing the asteroids and explaining the orbits we see today 
  • Group of rocks known as the kernel has a mysterious orbit in Kuiper belt
  • Astronomer David Nesvorny used a simulation to rewind 4 billion years
  • He discovered the kernel was once caught in Neptune’s gravitational pull
  • But a collision with a massive planet may have caused Neptune’s orbit to jump, freeing the asteroids and explaining the orbits we see today 

Our early solar system may have had an extra planet that was ejected from its orbit by a collision with Neptune.

The planet would have once been the fifth gas giant, and evidence of its existence still remains in the asteroid belt that sits in the outer reaches of the solar system.

In particular, the orbit of a cluster of icy rocks in the Kuiper belt known as the ‘kernel’ suggests Jupiter was forced out of its original orbit by a significant impact with a large object.

Our early solar system may have had an extra planet that was ejected from its orbit by a collision with Neptune. Simulations of the early solar system show that a group of asteroids in the Kuiper belt (pictured, artist’s impression) were freed from Neptune’s orbit after Neptune had a collision with a large object

This would mean the four gas giants in the solar system – Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Uranus – have a long lost brother that disappeared when the solar system was in its infancy.

David Nesvorny, an astronomer at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, proposed the theory in the September issue of The Astronomical Journal.

The group of asteroids known as the kernel have long been a mystery to astronomers, because unlike other asteroids in the Kuiper belt, they orbit the sun in the same way a planet would, and stick closely together.

Nesvorny used a computer simulation of the asteroids to rewind about 4 billion years to discover how they came to have such an unusual orbit.

He found that the icy bodies that make up the kernel were once captured by Neptune’s gravity as it moved away from the sun to settle into its current orbit.

Neptune pulled parts of the early solar system with it in a process that saw the kernel travel around the sun twice for each orbit that Neptune made.

When Neptune was 2.6 billion miles (4.2 billion kilometres) from the sun, approaching its current position, Neptune’s orbit jumped 4.7 million miles (7.5 million kilometres) away from the sun, according to Nesvorny’s calculations.

This jump freed the kernel from Neptune’s orbit, leading the rocks to the orbital position that they occupy today.

New Horizons is to continue travelling out to the edge of the solar system, but scientists hope to persuade Nasa to allow them to alter its direction to send it towards one of two icy objects in the Kuiper Belt - a ring of debris that surrounds our solar system. The artist's impression above shows the spacecraft, which will be the first to make such a journey, visiting one of these mysterious objects

New Horizons is to continue travelling out to the edge of the solar system, but scientists hope to persuade Nasa to allow them to alter its direction to send it towards one of two icy objects in the Kuiper Belt (artist’s impression). This will give astronomers the chance to examine the belt for signs of other planets

The group of asteroids known as the kernel have long been a mystery to astronomers, because unlike other asteroids in the Kuiper belt, they orbit the sun in the same way a planet would, and stick closely together.

Nesvorny used a computer simulation of the asteroids to rewind about 4 billion years to discover how they came to have such an unusual orbit.

He found that the icy bodies that make up the kernel were once captured by Neptune’s gravity as it moved away from the sun to settle into its current orbit.

Neptune pulled parts of the early solar system with it in a process that saw the kernel travel around the sun twice for each orbit that Neptune made.

When Neptune was 2.6 billion miles (4.2 billion kilometres) from the sun, approaching its current position, Neptune’s orbit jumped 4.7 million miles (7.5 million kilometres) away from the sun, according to Nesvorny’s calculations.

This jump freed the kernel from Neptune’s orbit, leading the rocks to the orbital position that they occupy today.

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Auteur: ariannelot

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