Did a Tenth Planet Exist in Our Solar System Between Saturn and Uranus?
Image for representation.
We grew up learning that our solar system has nine planets. Then we learned that it only has eight when Pluto was sadly demoted.
Scientists now believe there might have been a tenth planet in the solar system. No, the planet probably didn’t blow up or disintegrate. The best guess is that it got kicked out of its orbit, but not before deeply influencing planetary orbits as we observe today. The lost planet might have been icy and barren.
We know that planets formed from disks of dust and gas surrounding the young sun. Then clumps of matter accumulated to create the worlds. Then comes the orbits, which was earlier believed to start as closely-packed circular but elongated by a gravitational shift along the wheel of time.
The pattern we see today strikes some as “highly unusual” and experts have tried to explain its existence for a long time. Researchers in the US created thousands of models to simulate how this planetary system may have evolved. The team concluded that Jupiter and Saturn started with 'eccentric' or oval orbits; quite different than previously believed. Then came the orbits of ice planets like Uranus and Neptune. They believe their orbits were pulled gravitationally by another ice planet that may have existed between the two.
Matt Clement is the lead author who suggested there are thousands of planetary systems in Milky Way galaxy alone, but the arrangement of planets in our own solar system is highly unusual. The models they are using, aim to reverse engineer and replicate the system’s formative processes.
“This is a bit like trying to figure out what happened in a car crash after the fact — how fast were the cars going, in what directions, and so on,” he said.
According to Clement, 6,000 simulations were conducted by the team. The focus always remained on Saturn and Jupiter’s relationship. The former belief says Jupiter must have taken three rounds of the sun in its infancy forever two rounds taken by Saturn. However, that explanation doesn’t sit well with the gas giant’s configuration today. So they concluded Jupiter must have taken two rounds of the sun for each of Saturn’s. The study has been published in the journal Icarus.
But Neptune and Uranus still couldn’t be explained, leading them to believe there must have been some external factors. The factors could include Kuiper belt’s gravitational pull, this is where Pluto and planetoids and dwarf planets reside in an icy ring. But more importantly, an external factor that probably doesn’t even exist anymore – another giant planet between Saturn and Uranus now pushed out of our solar system.