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Uranus’s whopping 98-degree tilt could be due to a moon moving away from the planet

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Uranus’s whopping 98-degree tilt could be due to a MOON moving away from the planet and pulling it on its side, astronomers claim

  • Uranus typically has an axis of rotation that is so skewed that it might as well lie down
  • Seventh planet from the sun has a whopping 98 degrees to the orbital plane
  • Astronomers say this could be because the moon migrated away from the planet
  • This moon may have pulled the planet on its side before colliding with it

The unusual features of ice giant Uranus have long puzzled scientists.

But now experts think they have an explanation for why the seventh planet is so skewed from the sun that it might as well lie.

They say a mysterious moon moving away from Uranus may have pulled the planet on its side, causing it to tilt by as much as 98 degrees from its orbital plane.

The researchers at the National Center for Scientific Research in France claim that it didn’t even have to be a large moon to have this effect.

While it’s more likely that a larger satellite is to blame, something half the mass of our own satellite could have done it.

The odd tilt isn’t Uranus’s only quirk. It also rotates clockwise, which is the opposite direction to most other planets in our solar system.

Previous research has suggested this strange behavior could be because Uranus was hit by a huge object about twice the size of Earth billions of years ago, causing the planet to tilt.

Theory: Scientists have long puzzled over the unusual features of ice giant Uranus. But now experts think they have an explanation for why the seventh planet is so skewed from the sun that it might as well lie down

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT URANUS?

Uranus was discovered in 1781 by William Herschel and is named after the Greek god of the sky Ouranos.

It is located 1.84 billion miles from the sun and orbits the Earth every 84 years. The largest moons are Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania and Oberon.

It rotates on its axis every 17 hours and 14 minutes.

It has the coldest temperatures of all the planets in the solar system with a minimum temperature of -371F.

It has a series of dark, very thin colored rings around it.

The “catastrophic” collision shaped the evolution of Uranus and could explain its freezing temperatures, according to the 2018 study.

But the problem with that theory is that it doesn’t explain why the neighboring planet Neptune shares a number of similarities, including masses, rotational speeds, atmospheric dynamics and compositions, and unusual magnetic fields.

This led scientists to find other explanations, such as a wobble that could have been introduced early in the history of the solar system by a giant ring system or a giant moon.

A few years ago, astronomer Melaine Saillenfest — who led the new study — discovered something interesting about Jupiter.

The tilt of the gas giant could increase from the current small 3 percent to about 37 percent in a few billion years. The reason? The outward migration of its moons.

Then they looked at Saturn and found that its current inclination of 26.7 degrees could be the result of the rapid outward migration of its largest moon, Titan.

The researchers theorized that this could have happened while they had very little effect on the planet’s rotational speed.

This led the team to run simulations of a hypothetical Uranian system to determine if a similar mechanism could explain its strange behavior.

They found that a hypothetical moon with a minimum mass about half that of Earth’s moon could tilt Uranus to 90 degrees if it migrated more than 10 times the radius of Uranus at a rate of more than 6 centimeters per hour. year.

However, a larger moon comparable in size to Jupiter’s Ganymede would be more likely to produce the tilt and spin we see in Uranus today.

The problem with the theory is that its minimum mass — about a half moon from Earth — is about four times the combined mass of currently known Uranian satellites.

But the researchers think they have an answer to that too.

A larger moon comparable in size to Jupiter's Ganymede (pictured top left) would be more likely to produce the tilt and spin we see in Uranus today

A larger moon comparable in size to Jupiter’s Ganymede (pictured top left) would be more likely to produce the tilt and spin we see in Uranus today

They say that on a slope of about 80 degrees, this hypothetical moon could have destabilized, causing a chaotic phase for the spin axis that ended when it finally collided with Uranus, effectively “petrifying” the planet’s axial tilt and spin.

“This new photo for the tilt of Uranus looks promising to us,” they wrote.

“To our knowledge, this is the first time that a single mechanism has been able to both tilt Uranus and solidify its spin axis in its final state without triggering a giant impact or other external phenomena.

“The majority of our successful runs peak at the location of Uranus, which is a natural consequence of the dynamics.

“This photo also seems appealing as a generic phenomenon: Jupiter is about to begin its tilting phase today, Saturn may be halfway through, and Uranus is said to have completed the final phase, with the destruction of its satellite.”

The paper, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, has been accepted in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics and made available on preprint resource arXiv.

HOW DOES URANUS’ MAGNETIC FIELD COMPARE TO EARTH?

A recent study analyzing data collected by the Voyager 2 spacecraft more than 30 years ago found that Uranus’ global magnetosphere is nothing like Earth’s, which is known to be nearly aligned with its spin axis. of our planet.

An artificially colored image of Uranus captured by Hubble is depicted

An artificially colored image of Uranus captured by Hubble is depicted

According to the researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, this alignment would give rise to behavior that is vastly different from what we see around the Earth.

Uranus lies and rotates on its side, keeping the magnetic field tilted 60 degrees off its axis.

This causes the magnetic field to ‘tumble’ asymmetrically with respect to the solar wind.

This causes the magnetic field to ‘tumble’ asymmetrically with respect to the solar wind.

If the magnetosphere is open, solar wind can flow in.

But when it shuts off, it forms a shield against these particles.

The researchers suspect that the solar wind’s reconnection upstream of Uranus’ magnetosphere is happening at different latitudes, closing the magnetic flux in different parts.

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