Did our solar system lose a planet?

Posted on September 23, 2011


The four gas giants in the solar system, from ...
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It would seem that somewhere along the line our solar system might have lost a gassy, large planet like Neptune or Uranus. This finding gives a certain credence to the theory that ancient civilizations (who talked about extra planets and/or seemed to depict our solar system with the correct amount of planets) knew more about the workings of the solar system than we give them credit for. Planet X? We may never know!

In an effort to determine just how the solar system was formed, Nesvorny performed a series of some 6,000 computer simulations. When using just the four giant planets, every simulation found that they were too large and ended up destroying each other. In the simulations where they did manage to make it in one piece, the rocky planets such as Mars and Venus, were instead destroyed. According to his results, the current solar system structure would have a very low probability of occurring if it started with only four rocky planets and four gas planets.

After running these simulations, Nesvorny decided to add a fifth large planet into the mix. With the addition of this large planet, results found that the odds of our current solar system increased significantly.

The most successful simulations show that Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and a fifth planet, similar to that of Neptune or Uranus, started out all tightly packed and orbiting some 15 times further from the sun then our planet Earth. The lighter planets are sent out further by Jupiter and Saturn. A close encounter with Jupiter then ejects this mysterious fifth planet out of the solar system.

Recent discoveries of free-floating planets in interstellar space show that the ejection of planets could have been common, according to the study.

via Computer simulation shows Solar System once had an extra planet.

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