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Uranus was struck by a massive proto-planet


Posted on Tuesday, 3 July, 2018 | Comment icon 18 comments

Uranus is tilted at an unusual angle. Image Credit: NASA
Scientists have found evidence of a collision between the gas giant and an object twice the size of the Earth.
Uranus is unique among the planets in our solar system due to its peculiar tilt which sees it rotate on an axis set almost 90 degrees off of the orbital plane of the Sun.

Now scientists at Durham University have managed to confirm previous theories suggesting that Uranus acquired its tilt after colliding with a huge proto-planet in the early days of the solar system.

Using a computer simulation, the researchers determined that debris from this proto-planet may have formed a thin shell around Uranus' ice layer, trapping heat inside the core and bringing about freezing conditions in the outer atmosphere.

"Uranus spins on its side, with its axis pointing almost at right angles to those of all the other planets in the solar system," said study lead author Jacob Kegerreis.

"We ran more than 50 different impact scenarios using a high-powered super computer to see if we could recreate the conditions that shaped the planet's evolution."

"Our findings confirm that the most likely outcome was that the young Uranus was involved in a cataclysmic collision with an object twice the mass of Earth, if not larger, knocking it on to its side and setting in process the events that helped create the planet we see today."

Source: Sky News | Comments (18)

Tags: Uranus

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #9 Posted by Ell on 4 July, 2018, 0:00
A couple of smart guys speculate that Uranus was hit by a planet. Speculate, speculate, speculate... They do not offer any proof...
Comment icon #10 Posted by bison on 4 July, 2018, 1:33
Outside of pure mathematics, there is no such thing as 'proof' in science. It's all a matter of higher or lower probabilities. It was already considered highly probable that Uranus was struck by another substantial object, a very long time ago, and that this was the reason it rotates on its side. This new study painstakingly tested various computer models of this collision, until they found one that matched what we find today. They learned a good deal in the process, and established a reasonably probable scenario, in which an object about twice the mass of Earth encountered Uranus, striking it... [More]
Comment icon #11 Posted by Ell on 4 July, 2018, 11:19
So it's just mere speculation, isn't it?
Comment icon #12 Posted by Tom the Photon on 4 July, 2018, 13:07
It is speculation.  There are other possibilities to explain each anomaly Uranus displays.  For example - Uranus's core emits less heat than expected.  This could be caused by many reasons - it might be smaller than expected (but then we'd need to explain why that occurred billions of years ago), it could be because of a different ratio of radionuclides to other planets' cores (but again that would need explaining how that arose).  It could be that the insect-like creatures that hang around Uranus are trapping the heat and channelling it into useful work, but that's a bit of a long-shot.  So s... [More]
Comment icon #13 Posted by Ell on 4 July, 2018, 23:08
I am pleased to make your acquaintance.
Comment icon #14 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 5 July, 2018, 0:24
Okay then, rather than continuing your negative, anti-science posts, would you care to explain, given that there is currently no such thing as a time machine ,exactly HOW proof of an event which probably occurred billions of years ago could be obtained.
Comment icon #15 Posted by Ell on 5 July, 2018, 0:57
Unless you genuinely classify speculation as scientific proof, I take offence at your insinuation. Anyone can roll a couple of dice and assert that his two sixes constitute scientific proof. It ain't. One cannot prove a negative. If some hypothetical planet collided with Uranus, the debris ought to be all over the solar system: in the asteroid belt, on Mars, on Earth and on the Moon. When some geologist offers Uranus meteorites and hypothetical planet meteorites from billions of years old rock layers, I will be interested. Until then it is just a couple of guys who say they have thrown two six... [More]
Comment icon #16 Posted by qxcontinuum on 5 July, 2018, 4:20
I see an hear more hypothesis matching some of my personal observations regarding a celestial body which not just in the past but relatively recently ( in astronomical figures) have caused havoc. Mars was probably the latest to be impacted.  Could be planet x or a planet which ended cstaclismically ... hard to say. The most intriguing discovery for me remains the new age established for Saturn rings. Dating now back to 60 millions of years only .
Comment icon #17 Posted by Tom the Photon on 5 July, 2018, 7:13
A fundamental tenet of good science is its ability to recognise its limitations, and to adapt to new ideas, research and evidence.  Old theories must be dropped if new evidence shows they cannot be correct: examples include phlogiston, aether, spontaneous generation, etc. (See here for more examples.) In my opinion the greater risk to scientific progress is not from sceptical interrogatives, rather from the unquestioning acceptance of conjecture as factual by the credulous.  It is most damaging when such people have positions of influence, such as news editors or politicians: politicians might... [More]
Comment icon #18 Posted by TripGun on 6 July, 2018, 16:25
So they have confirmed the best guess? Ugh


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