New theory explores how Uranus was “on the sidelines”


Uranus, one of the gas giants that “inhabit” our cosmic neighborhood, is “lying” at an angle of almost 98 degrees with respect to the plane of the Solar System. Its 27 known moons, as well as its rings – yes, Saturn is not the only planet here in our neighborhood to have these “props”! -, they also orbit around the Sun, and the most likely cause of this oddity was the impact with some star billions of years ago, when Uranus was in formation.

However, according to a recent study published by scientists at the Tokyo Institute of Technology in Japan, the collision that left Uranus in the position he is in today was not just any crash, no! As the models and simulations conducted by the team pointed out, the stumbling block occurred with a colossal cosmic body of ice with an estimated mass between 1 and 3 times that of Earth.

According to Mike Wall of, the collision theory is nothing new, but, until recently, creating models and simulations that replicate the current conditions of Uranus – with its moons and ring system with “toppled” orbits – had proved a challenge. This is because, although the impact was violent enough to leave the gas giant lying, its satellites, although numerous, have little mass, indicating that the shock must not have generated a large accumulation of debris around the planet.

As numerous studies have already shown, it is common for moons to form from the agglomeration of material present in the disks that come to envelop the planets after major cosmic collisions. It was thus, in fact, that our satellite – probably – was formed, that is, from the collision of the Earth with a protoplanet. But the same reasoning could not be applied to Uranus, as the mass of its moons is too low for them to have arisen as a result of a major impact.

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However, according to Mike, the big draw for Tokyo scientists was to develop a new model – one considering what the formation of moons would look like around icy planets further away from the Sun. The simulations pointed out that the collision would lead to the release of a large amount of quite volatile material and that Uranus, which was still in formation, would end up absorbing much of the resulting gases.

This would leave little material for the formation of moons, explaining why satellites are low in mass. In addition, in order for all these conditions to occur, the simulations indicated that the collision should have occurred with a huge and icy star. The cool thing is that the new model proposed by Tokyo scientists can be applied to the study of other gaseous planets, both in the Solar System and other planetary systems, and will certainly be put into practice.


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