It turns out that Uranus is so strange because of a massive collision billions of years ago.
A recent study confirms that this collision with a giant object – about twice the size of the Earth – could have led to the planet's extreme inclination and other strange features.
Uranus, the planet with the unforgettable name, is unique in a number of ways. "All the planets in the solar system are spinning more or less the same way … but Uranus is completely on his side," said Jacob Kegerreis, the lead author of the new study and researcher at the Institute for Computational Cosmology at Durham University in the UK, Space said. com. And that's not the only thing that makes the planet so strange.
Uranus also has a "very, very strange" magnetic field and is extremely cold, although according to Kegerreis it should be "warmer". In this study, Kegerreis and his team of astronomers try to explain many of the planet's weird features by attributing them to a collision with a massive, icy object about 4 billion years ago. [Photos of Uranus, the Tilted Giant]
To better understand the impact of Uranus & # 39; Development the team used a powerful supercomputer to simulate massive collisions ̵
The researchers suspect that this object was probably a young protoplanete consisting of rock and ice. This collision is "pretty much the only way" that we can explain Uranus' bias, said Kegerreis.
Amazingly, Uranus maintained its atmosphere after this impact. The researchers think that this is because the object just grazed the planet and hit it hard enough to change its inclination, but not enough to affect its atmosphere, according to Durham University.
It is likely that this type of event is not uncommon in the universe: "All the evidence suggests that huge impacts occur frequently during planet formation, and with this kind of research we are now gaining more insight into their potential habitable implications Exoplanets, "said Luis Teodoro, co-author and researcher at the BAER / NASA Ames Research Center, in the statement.
But this huge object, that penetrated into Uranus did more than a new inclination. According to this investigation, when the object met Uranus, it may be that some of the debris from the impact has formed a thin shell that continues to trap the heat that comes from the core of the planet. This could at least partially explain why the outer atmosphere of Uranus is extremely cold.
According to Kegerreis, this collision could also explain two other curiosities about the inclined planet. First, it may explain how and why some of the moons of Uranus have formed. Researchers believe that the impact of rocks and ice into the orbit of the young planet could have been a hit – fragments that later became part of the 27 moons of Uranus. They also think that the collision could have changed the rotation of moons that existed at the time. Last year, this aspect of the collision was also investigated in a separate study.
The researchers also suspect that the collision could have produced molten ice and rocks inside the planet, causing the magnetic field to tilt accordingly.
According to this study, the researchers hope to investigate this collision with even higher-resolution simulations in order to better understand the development of Uranus, according to Kegerreis. He also pointed out that the team wanted to study Uranus chemistry and the different ways in which such an impact could affect its atmosphere.
This work was published July 2, 2018 in The Astrophysical Journal.