A team of scientists explains Uranus' lopsided angle, its freezing temperatures, and irregular magnetic fields.
Durham University researchers ran detailed computer simulations to explain Uranus' unique 90-degree side position. NASA chief scientist Jim Green further deepens the oddity by explaining that not only is its position lopsided but also its five largest moons and its magnetic field. It is also the only planet whose central heat doesn't emanate from the core.
The Theory Of Missing Planet X
"Uranus spins on its side, with its axis pointing almost at right angles to those of all the other planets in the solar system. This was almost certainly caused by a giant impact, but we know very little about how this actually happened and how else such a violent event affected the planet," says Jacob Kegerreis, PhD researcher in Durham University's Institute for Computational Cosmology. "We ran more than 50 different impact scenarios using a high-powered supercomputer to see if we could recreate the conditions that shaped the planet's evolution."
Keggereis explained that according to the simulations, the crash and subsequent reshaping of the planet happened within a few hours. He even produced an animation video replicating the collision and its aftermath.
Green rationalizes that the massive object responsible for knocking Uranus may still even be prowling in the solar system. This theory sheds light on the planet's orbits and also fits well with the notion that Planet X is rotating around the sun, far beyond Pluto.
Green also believes that it is possible that a number of smaller rocks may have been responsible for Uranus' askew position. However, Kegerreis' research points out at a single huge space rock. He adds that single impact is the right thinking.
Formation Of Rings And Moons
The research also illuminates on the formation of rings and moons of the planet. Computer simulations indicate that the collision may have ejected the rock and ice into Uranus' orbit. This rock and ice may have grouped together to form its inner satellites and distorted its existing moons already orbiting around the planet.
The simulations further shed light on its off-core magnetic field by explaining that the impact of the crash may have developed melted ice and pieces of rock inside the planet that caused it to tilt.
Uranus is quite similar to exoplanets and the researchers hope that their study will help them gain a better understanding of these planets' chemical composition and their evolution.