Researchers from the United States have conducted simulations in regards to our Solar System having an extra planet at one time as well as the orbital patterns of our current planets.
They believe that there was once an icy planet that was kicked out of our solar system and that it had an effect on how some of the planets orbit our sun. When our sun was very young, the planets formed from a swirling disk of gas and dust. It was suggested that the large planets orbited the sun in a different way from their current patterns but gravitational reactions forced them into their current orbits.
The researchers attempted to figure out how the planets’ orbits changed throughout history so they ran 6,000 different simulations and they found that Jupiter and Saturn started off with “eccentric” oval-shaped orbits around the sun. It is believed that when Jupiter was very young, it orbited the sun three times compared to two orbits completed by Saturn, but based on their orbital patterns today it didn’t make a lot of sense. According to the new research, they think that Jupiter probably completed two orbits around the sun for each one made by Saturn.
Additionally, they found that Uranus and Neptune were affected by the gravitational pull of the Kuiper belt as well as by a lost planet – an icy world that was once located between Saturn and Uranus.
Matt Clement, who is a planetary scientist from the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington as well as an author of the paper, explained this process further, “We now know that there are thousands of planetary systems in our Milky Way galaxy alone.” “But it turns out that the arrangement of planets in our own Solar System is highly unusual, so we are using models to reverse engineer and replicate its formative processes.” “This is a bit like trying to figure out what happened in a car crash after the fact — how fast were the cars going, in what directions, and so on.”
He went on to say, “This indicates that while our Solar System is a bit of an oddball, it wasn’t always the case,” adding, “What’s more, now that we’ve established the effectiveness of this model, we can use it to help us look at the formation of the terrestrial planets, including our own,” as well as to “inform our ability to look for similar systems elsewhere that could have the potential to host life.”
Their research was published in the journal Icarus and can be read in full here.