(ORDO NEWS) — A team of researchers from the Sorbonne University, the University of Maryland, the University of Pisa and the University of the Cote d’Azur have developed a theory to explain Uranus’ strange tilt and unusual rotation.
The scientists published an article describing their work on the arXiv.org server. Among the planets in our solar system, Uranus stands out for two reasons.
Uranus has an axial tilt of almost 98°, much more than any other planet in our system. Uranus also rotates clockwise, which distinguishes it from the rest of the planets in the solar system.
Over the past few years, scientists have put forward various theories to explain the unique characteristics of Uranus.
It has been suggested that the tilt was caused by a collision with another large body, or that a group of smaller bodies could have influenced it.
Either scenario was difficult to confirm due to the lack of evidence for such bodies. In this new work, the researchers suggest that the unique tilt angle is due to the migration of Uranus’ moons.
A few years ago, team members noticed that Jupiter’s tilt was increasing due to the migration of its moons. Mathematical calculations predict that its slope will change dramatically over the next few billion years.
When the researchers looked at Saturn, they found similar results, mainly due to the migration of its largest moon, Titan. This prompted scientists to turn their attention to Uranus.
To find out if the moon’s migration could be the cause of the large axial tilt, the researchers used computer simulations showing the range of the moon’s migrations.
Scientists have found that the moon, which is only half the mass of Earth’s moon, can increase the tilt of Uranus to almost 90 degrees over millions of years.
They also found that the moons currently orbiting Uranus do not have enough mass to create such a tilt.
But simulations have shown that if a large moon increases Uranus’ tilt to 80°, the situation will become unstable and the moon will crash into the planet.
The researchers concluded that this could explain the magnitude of the tilt as well as the direction of rotation of Uranus.
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