A new research study finally offers an explanation for Uranus’s strange climate and unusual tilt. The planet, as scientists believe, moves much differently as compared to other planets in the solar system.
The new study conducted by Jacob Kegerreis and his colleagues from Durham University’s Institute for Computational Cosmology claims a large object about twice the size of Earth might have hit a young Uranus made of rock and ice in the early days of the solar system some 4 billion years ago. The collision is expected to have caused the planet to tilt dramatically and spin on its side.
For the purpose of the study, the researchers used a high-powered supercomputer to run simulations of different impact scenarios that would recreate the conditions that shaped the planet’s evolution. It was found that the impact of the collision was sufficient enough to change the direction the planet’s axis is pointing. The impact was probably only a glancing blow rather than a head-on collision as a direct hit probably would have destroyed the planet’s atmosphere.
“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,” said lead author Jacob Kegerreis.
The research study also suggested that the vast collision might also be the reason why Uranus came to have such freezing temperatures. Computer simulations suggested that debris resulting from the collision could have made a thin shell around the ice layer on the planet and trapped the internal heat that resulted in freezing conditions in the outer atmosphere, which scientists estimate to be about -357 degrees Fahrenheit.
The study results have been published in the Astrophysical Journal.