Solar system had a fifth giant gas planet which was ejected by Jupiter four billion years ago
We could have one more planet in our solar system if Jupiter had not pushed it out of the region four billion years ago.
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This is what a new study from University of Toronto suggests. The solar system had 9 planets at the time of its formation. But something like an interplanetary chess game, led to the ejection of that unknown planet from the system.
The existence of the planet, which could have been fifth giant gas planet in the solar system, was first proposed in 2011. Study hinted the solar system initially had a giant planet ‘with the mass comparable to that of Uranus and Neptune, and which was ejected to interstellar space’ by another planet.
If this is the case, then which planet was the culprit? For years, scientists have suspected the ouster was either Saturn or Jupiter but now they have more conclusive evidences.
“Our evidence points to Jupiter,” said Ryan Cloutier, a PhD candidate in University of Toronto’s department of astronomy and astrophysics and the lead author of the study.
Planet ejections take place when two planets come too close to each other and one accelerates so much that it breaks free from the strong gravitational pull of the sun.
However, previous studies have not taken into consideration what effect those violent encounters could possibly have on minor bodies like the moons of the fighting giant planets and their orbits.
Cloutier and his colleagues developed computer simulations on the basis of present day trajectories of Callistos and lapetus, the moon’s of Juliet’s and Saturn respectively. They believed that the event of ejecting a planet must have caused significant disturbance to each moon’s original orbit.
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“Ultimately, we found that Jupiter is capable of ejecting the fifth giant planet while retaining a moon with the orbit of Callisto,” said Cloutier. “On the other hand, it would have been for Saturn to do so because Iapetus would have been excessively unsettled, resulting in an orbit that is difficult to reconcile with its current trajectory.”