A young protoplanet twice the size of Earth could have hit Uranus in the formation of the solar system some 4 billion years ago. The collision can help explain the odd tilt of the gas giant as well as illuminate other features of the planet. ( NASA / JPL-Caltech )
A young Uranus was hit in the early days of the Solar System by a large object about twice the size of the Earth, as the results of a new study have shown [1
Uranus hit by young protoplanets twice the size of planet Earth
In the new study published in The Astrophysical Journal Jacob Kegerreis from the Institute of Computational Cosmology at Durham University and colleagues used a powerful supercomputer to Perform simulations of different impact scenarios that mimic the conditions that shaped the evolution of Uranus.
The results corroborated the results of a previous study stating that the inclined position of the ice giant was due to a collision with a massive object, while the solar system formed about 4 billion years ago. The object was possibly a young protoplanet, about twice as massive as the earth and made of rock and ice.
"The young Uranus was involved in a cataclysmic collision with an object of the Earth's double mass, if not greater, knocked on his side and the events that contributed to the planet we see today created, "said Kegerreis in a statement.
Other Effects of Collision
The computer simulations also indicated that the debris of the impactor could form a thin shell near the edge of the Uranus ice sheet and trap heat from the core of the planet. The trapping of internal heat could help explain the extremely cold temperature of the iceberg's outer atmosphere, which scientists estimate at about -357 degrees Fahrenheit.
"Most of the material from the rocky core of the impactor falls into the core of the target." The researchers wrote in their July 2 study, "For higher angular momenta, however, significant amounts of anisotropic clumps are embedded in the ice sheet."
The results also provided an explanation for the formation of uranium rings and moons. The simulations suggest that the impact could have thrown rock and ice into orbit around the planet. These debris of rock and ice could then have formed into lumps that would become the planet's inner satellites and possibly alter the rotation of moons already orbiting the planet.
The computer simulations also showed that the event resulted in the formation of molten ice and clumps of rocks within the planet that could explain the inclined and off-center magnetic field of Uranus.
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