(ORDO NEWS) — If you’ve been lying in bed at night worrying about the solar system’s planets ricocheting across the galaxy, you can take it easy.
We have at least 100,000 years before this happens, according to new calculations.
In a new study, mathematicians Angel Zhivkov and Ivaylo Tunchev of Sofia University in Bulgaria have presented analytical evidence for the stability of the solar system over the next 100 millennia, including all eight planets and Pluto.
Their calculations, which have not yet been peer-reviewed, show that the orbits of these bodies will not change significantly during this time.
This may seem strange; after all, the solar system has been doing its thing for 4.5 billion years or so. But in fact, it is not easy to model and predict what it will do in the future.
Of course, research has been done to try and calculate the future of the solar system using advanced technology. calculations to simulate the motion of planets over millions or billions of years.
However, in order to cover such long timescales, they leave out some of the finer details.
Although Zhivkov and Tunchev’s work covers a much shorter period of time than other papers, they say it improves the reliability of the results.
This is because it takes into account deviations in the initial conditions, such as the eccentricities and inclinations of the orbits of the planets, as well as the masses of all the bodies in the system.
The ultimate fate of the solar system is something that has baffled scientists for a long time. very long time. Isaac Newton suggested that the interaction between the planets would eventually lead the solar system to chaos. The long-term dynamic stability of our home planetary system has served as the basis for the brain-mill ever since.
This is because the more bodies in a dynamical system, the more difficult it becomes to predict how they are going to behave. Two bodies locked in a common orbit are relatively easy to describe and predict mathematically.
However, the more bodies you add, the more difficult the math becomes. This is because the bodies begin to perturb each other’s orbits, adding an element of chaos to the system. This is known as the N-body problem.
Solutions can be obtained for specific individual cases, but there is no single formula that describes all interactions of N bodies without exception. And the solar system is really very complex, and not only does it have eight planets and the sun, but also asteroids, dwarf planets, and other small things drifting around.
We can probably largely ignore really small things like asteroids. , but even so, many bodies remain in the system.
Zhivkov and Tunchev developed a numerical method that translates the orbital elements of the planets (and Pluto) into 54 first-order ordinary differential equations. The computer code running on the desktop computer then performed over 6,290,000 steps, with each step taking about six days to complete.
The calculations show that “a configuration of touching ellipses in which the planets moving around the Sun will remain stable for at least 100,000 years in the sense that each planet’s semi-major axis varies within or less than one percent,” the researchers write.
In other words, the solar system is not yet going to imitate the galactic billiards.
Even when the initial conditions and masses were changed, the solar system remained stable according to the team’s calculations, and the researchers suggest that stability could eventually be maintained for a million or even a billion years, although the calculations would require a more powerful computer.
Previous calculations have shown that it will take about 100 billion years for the solar system to break up and disperse into the Milky Way.
By then, the Sun will be healthy and truly dead, living its afterlife as a white dwarf, so humanity is unlikely to be able to see it unless we can find a safe haven somewhere else, far away. However, the likelihood of this is doubtful.
Anyway. Existential fear aside, you can read the team’s article on the arXiv preprint server.
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