Second Alignment Plane Discovered in Solar System Can Help Study Origin of Comets
Representative Image of Solar System.
A new discovery suggests that our solar system has another alignment plane. It was revealed during an analytical investigation of long-period comet orbits. It shows that ‘aphelia’ of comets, which is the point of highest distance from the Sun, tend to fall close to either the well-known ecliptic plane where the planets reside or a newly discovered “empty ecliptic”.
The new information can help create models and analyse how the comets may have originally formed in the solar system. Usually, planets and other bodies in our solar system move in more or less the same orbital plane. This circular path is also called the ecliptic. However, comets are an exception. Especially when it comes to long-period comets, which take thousands of years to complete one orbit. They generally don’t confine themselves to the area of the ecliptic as they can come and go in a variety of directions.
Older models of the solar system suggested that long-period comets may have formed near the ecliptic and later travelled into their respective orbits. The comets could have moved to other orbits due to the gravitational pull of other planets, most probably giant gas planets. Even so, the comet's aphelion or the point of farthest distance from the sun should be in the same ecliptic area. The only way to explain their varied orbital distribution is that there must be some external force influencing them.
According to Phys.org, in the Milky Way all solar systems exist in correlation with one another. Each has a small force, infinitesimal when compared to the universe has a whole but significant enough to have influence gravities within.
However, a new study suggests that there are two such ‘planes’ in the galaxy. First is the ecliptic, which is widely known. Arika Higuchi, assistant professor, University of Occupational and Environmental Health in Japan, who has studied the effects of the galactic gravity on long-period comets through analytical investigation of the equations governing the orbital motion, suggests there is a second plane known as “empty ecliptic.”
This ecliptic, she suggested, is inclined similarly to the observed Milky Way ecliptic at 60 degrees, but it is in the opposite direction. It is called “empty” because it starts empty but later becomes populated with comets scattered throughout.
“The sharp peaks are not exactly at the ecliptic or empty ecliptic planes, but near them. An investigation of the distribution of observed small bodies has to include many factors,” said Higuchi. She further added her future work would be focused on examining the distribution of long-period comets