Giant planet ejected from the solar system

Nov 10, 2011
Artist's impression of a planet ejected from the early solar system. Image courtesy of Southwest Research Institute

(PhysOrg.com) -- Just as an expert chess player sacrifices a piece to protect the queen, the solar system may have given up a giant planet and spared the Earth, according to an article recently published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

"We have all sorts of clues about the early evolution of the solar system," says author Dr. David Nesvorny of the Southwest Research Institute. "They come from the analysis of the trans-Neptunian population of small bodies known as the Kuiper Belt, and from the lunar cratering record."

These clues suggest that the orbits of giant planets were affected by a dynamical instability when the solar system was only about 600 million years old. As a result, the giant planets and smaller bodies scattered away from each other.

Some small bodies moved into the and others traveled inward, producing impacts on the and the Moon. The giant planets moved as well. Jupiter, for example, scattered most small bodies outward and moved inward.

This scenario presents a problem, however. Slow changes in Jupiter's orbit, such as the ones expected from interaction with small bodies, would have conveyed too much momentum to the orbits of the terrestrial planets. Stirring up or disrupting the and possibly causing the Earth to collide with Mars or Venus.

This animation (click "Enlarge") shows the evolution of the planetary system from 20 million years before the instability to 30 million years after the instability (the actual simulation covered a much longer time span). Five initial planets are shown by red circles, small bodies are in green. The fifth planet is ejected at the instability, as can be seen in frame t=0, causing a general disorder in the region. The system of the remaining four planets stabilizes after a while, and looks like the outer solar system in the end, with giant planets at 5, 10, 20 and 30 astronomical units (AU). This is just one of more than 6,000 simulations performed to study the likelihood of planet ejection. Animation courtesy of Southwest Research Institute

"Colleagues suggested a clever way around this problem," says Nesvorny. "They proposed that Jupiter's orbit quickly changed when Jupiter scattered off of Uranus or Neptune during the dynamical instability in the ." The "jumping-Jupiter" theory, as it is known, is less harmful to the inner solar system, because the orbital coupling between the terrestrial planets and Jupiter is weak if Jupiter jumps.

Nesvorny conducted thousands of computer simulations of the early solar system to test the jumping-Jupiter theory. He found that, as hoped for, Jupiter did in fact jump by scattering from Uranus or Neptune. When it jumped, however, Uranus or Neptune was knocked out of the solar system. "Something was clearly wrong," he says.

Motivated by these results, Nesvorny wondered whether the could have had five giant planets instead of four. By running the simulations with an additional giant planet with mass similar to that of Uranus or Neptune, things suddenly fell in place. One planet was ejected from the solar system by Jupiter, leaving four giant planets behind, and Jupiter jumped, leaving the terrestrial planets undisturbed.

"The possibility that the solar system had more than four initially, and ejected some, appears to be conceivable in view of the recent discovery of a large number of free-floating planets in interstellar space, indicating the planet ejection process could be a common occurrence," says Nesvorny.

Explore further: Image: Galactic wheel of life shines in infrared

More information: The paper, “Young Solar System’s Fifth Giant Planet?” by Dr. David Nesvorny was published online by The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

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User comments : 34

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rubberman
3.5 / 5 (13) Nov 10, 2011
Maybe, one day, these poor galactic orphans will find another system to call home....*sniff
seb
5 / 5 (3) Nov 10, 2011
Oh great.. more fuel for the planet x types
that_guy
5 / 5 (2) Nov 10, 2011
Oh great.. more fuel for the planet x types

Ironically, you're right, even though it would take a rube goldberg set of circumstances to get that same ejected planet back into the solar system.

...possibly causing the Earth to collide with Mars or Venus


Also known as a syfy made for TV movie.
yyz
5 / 5 (1) Nov 10, 2011
The paper in question has been posted on the arXiv server: http://arxiv.org/...49v1.pdf
ThanderMAX
1 / 5 (1) Nov 10, 2011
Its all in simulation.. I hope we can someday use a time machine and travel back in time to see really what happened.
tpb
not rated yet Nov 10, 2011
So, what explains the asteroid belt?
rubberman
2.1 / 5 (7) Nov 10, 2011
Tpb, there isn't enough material in the asteroid belt to make up even an earth sized planet, if i remember correctly it's about a third earth mass with Ceres, vesta and 1 other one similar in size to vesta comprising 51% of the belts total mass. The theory I have heard most often is that the belt is simply left over material that didn't coalesce into a planet.
axemaster
5 / 5 (2) Nov 10, 2011
Tpb, there isn't enough material in the asteroid belt to make up even an earth sized planet, if i remember correctly it's about a third earth mass with Ceres, vesta and 1 other one similar in size to vesta comprising 51% of the belts total mass. The theory I have heard most often is that the belt is simply left over material that didn't coalesce into a planet.

As far as I know the objects in the asteroid belt are unable to coalesce because of the influence of Jupiter's gravity.
astro_optics
1.4 / 5 (10) Nov 10, 2011
Sounds like divine intervention!
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.6 / 5 (7) Nov 10, 2011
Holy Velikovsky!
_nigmatic10
1 / 5 (3) Nov 10, 2011
The simulations do not have all the variables it needs to accurately depict the planetary evolution.
mudi
1 / 5 (4) Nov 11, 2011
All scientist know only one day of a long journey.
https://sites.goo...universe
SteveL
5 / 5 (6) Nov 11, 2011
The simulations do not have all the variables it needs to accurately depict the planetary evolution.
Likely so, but such simulations use the math and dynamics that we know. Sometimes learning is a trial and error process. In any instance this is still progress.
WhiteJim
1.8 / 5 (5) Nov 11, 2011
a giant planet bigger than jupiter may some day come careening into the solar system distrupting all of the orbits of planets. Someone get busy scripting this for HBO.
WhiteJim
1.8 / 5 (5) Nov 11, 2011
I wonder how long it would take from the time we notice the rouge planet comming towards us and we feel its effects on earth?
dutchman
5 / 5 (1) Nov 11, 2011
... it would take a rube goldberg set of circumstances to get that same ejected planet back into the solar system.

or a movie/TV SciFi script, free from the constraints of the pesky laws of physics

teledyn
5 / 5 (1) Nov 11, 2011
Holy Velikovsky! I guess someone better apologize to his family.
omatumr
1 / 5 (9) Nov 11, 2011
So, what explains the asteroid belt?


The asteroid belt is the interface between:

a.) Heavy elements generated in the deep interior of a star (Fe, O, Ni, Si and S) that condensed into ordinary meteorites and rocky planets, like Earth, and

b.) Light elements (H, He, C, N) and "strange" heavy elements like Jupiter and the carbon-rich inclusions of carbonaceous meteorites:

"Elemental and isotopic inhomogeneities in noble gases:
The case for local synthesis of the chemical elements",
Transactions Missouri Academy Sciences 9, 104-122 (1975)

www.omatumr.com/D...Data.htm

"Strange xenon, extinct super-heavy elements, and
the solar neutrino puzzle", Science 195, 208-209 (1977)

www.omatumr.com/a...enon.pdf

"Isotopic ratios in Jupiter confirm intra-solar diffusion",
Meteoritics 33, A97, 5011 (1998)

www.lpi.usra.edu/...5011.pdf

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
http://myprofile....anuelo09
omatumr
1 / 5 (7) Nov 11, 2011
b.) Light elements (H, He, C, N) and "strange" heavy elements that condensed into giant gaseous planets like Jupiter and the carbon-rich inclusions of carbonaceous meteorites
GDM
3 / 5 (2) Nov 11, 2011
Hmmm Greek mythology states that Venus was born from the forehead of Jupiter...red spot?...hmmm ;-)
Ramael
1 / 5 (2) Nov 11, 2011
Hmmm Greek mythology states that Venus was born from the forehead of Jupiter...red spot?...hmmm ;-)


Wasn't Aphrodite formed from the severed testicles of Ouranos as they fell into the sea? Hence being the goddess of sexual love.. Venus and Jupiter are roman names
Au-Pu
1.8 / 5 (10) Nov 11, 2011
When will Americans learn to speak properly?
Nothing is ever "off of", the "of" is totally redundant and is an indication of ignorance, ignorance that has been allowed to infiltrate the North American vocabulary.
An ignorant habit that does not occur elsewhere in the world.
The phrase should simply have read "when Jupiter scattered off Uranus or Neptune"
Ethelred
2.3 / 5 (9) Nov 11, 2011
When will you Ausies learn the we aren't DFBs and speak American not English?

And why can't you guys pronounce A correctly.

Me nimes AElfred. You spell it I - A - L F R A D NO not I, I.

Now 'Had had' and 'that that' bugs me and Brits and Ausies do it also. With Jasper Fforde taking it to silly extremes.

http://www.jasper...?5,76154

Perhaps it was revenge for his last name.

Ethelred
SleepTech
4.3 / 5 (6) Nov 11, 2011
When will Americans learn to speak properly?
Nothing is ever "off of", the "of" is totally redundant and is an indication of ignorance, ignorance that has been allowed to infiltrate the North American vocabulary.
An ignorant habit that does not occur elsewhere in the world.
The phrase should simply have read "when Jupiter scattered off Uranus or Neptune"


Cry some more. Maybe someone will care enough to wipe those crybaby tears off of you.
PaulRadcliff
1 / 5 (3) Nov 12, 2011
WTF. Speculation equals news story??? String theory is just a theory, too. Doesn't mean it is real, or even possible. Interesting. But I could be wasting my free time on facts and reality based stuff, not some ideas that prove nothing, except that super computers are for serious work. Why not work on why quantum entanglement is real and how that works? That answer could revolutionize the whole world of physics!
MRBlizzard
1 / 5 (3) Nov 12, 2011
"even though it would take a rube goldberg set of circumstances to get that same ejected planet back into the solar system.

Could the ejected planet have run into someting (Pluto/Sedna sized?) further out and lost enough energy to continue being captured? The smaller the collision (above some limit) and the further out, the longer the period.

antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Nov 12, 2011
Could the ejected planet have run into someting (Pluto/Sedna sized?)

Extremely unlikely. How did that Pluto-sized mass get there? also ejected from our solar system? (and if so why would they crash head on - they'd be travelling more or less in the same direction. Such billard-ball antics in the depths of space are probably really rare.

"Rube Goldberg" device would be an understatement.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (8) Nov 12, 2011
Nothing is ever "off of", the "of" is totally redundant and is an indication of ignorance, ignorance that has been allowed to infiltrate the North American vocabulary.
It is a rhythmic convention. It makes speaking a little easier. Languages are full of them. Maybe you should try speaking more and writing less. Good for the brain.
Thex1138
not rated yet Nov 13, 2011
...and every 65 million years that ejected planet returns to the inner planets to wreak havoc.
Guy_Underbridge
5 / 5 (1) Nov 14, 2011
Just as an expert chess player sacrifices a piece to protect the queen, the solar system may have given up a giant planet and spared the Earth
so it was a pondered decision?
Sinister1811
2 / 5 (8) Nov 14, 2011
Could the ejected planet have run into someting (Pluto/Sedna sized?) further out and lost enough energy to continue being captured? The smaller the collision (above some limit) and the further out, the longer the period.


On the other hand, the ejected planet could have influenced the orbit of Sedna (whose orbit is strangely and highly elliptical).
rubberman
2.3 / 5 (9) Nov 14, 2011
One would have to be off of ones rocker to be focusing on small grammatical inconsistencies instead of the message the poster is attempting convey...that that even happens really disrupts the pleasant day i had had going......
that_guy
1 / 5 (1) Nov 14, 2011
One would have to be off of ones rocker to be focusing on small grammatical inconsistencies instead of the message the poster is attempting convey...that that even happens really disrupts the pleasant day i had had going......

Please find a way not to use 'that' twice in a row. It's terrible lingual/rhythmic convention.

hahaha
TychoCraterCafe
1 / 5 (2) Dec 04, 2011
I am stunned at the assumptions of astronomers and their "simulations" to explain various oddities of the standard model. I mean there is no proof for any of this, right?