Tech UPTechnologyA small change in the orbit of Neptune could...

A small change in the orbit of Neptune could turn the entire solar system upside down


Do you think our solar system is stable? If we compare it with the history of humanity, we could say that yes, our solar system is quite stable. However, any small gravitational influence could have a dramatic effect on it due to the chaotic and complex nature of the forces involved.

Now, a team of researchers ( Garett Brown and Hanno Rein of the University of Toronto, Canada) has set out to determine how easily this apparent normality could be broken. Their results indicate that for the entire solar system to be turned upside down, it would only be necessary for the average distance between Neptune and the Sun to change by 0.1 percent.


A small step for the solar system but…

If a neighboring star passed too close to our solar system, what would happen? Scientists looked at the potentially devastating effects of minor changes in the orbits of planets in the solar system caused by a star getting too close: a few billion miles away.

They ran nearly 3,000 computer simulations with varying degrees of perturbation caused by a possible stellar flyby, examining aftereffects up to 4.8 billion years later.


The results?

The results are quite shocking. The effects of the 0.1 percent disruption, equivalent to 7.25 million kilometers in Neptune’s giant axis, spread across Earth and Mars in just 20 million years. A 10 percent outage could spell disaster for us and for Mars.

The team ran 2,880 and 960 simulations with very little interference . However, in four of them, Mercury hit Venus. In 26 of the simulations that ended in chaos, there were many collisions between Mercury and Venus, one collision with Earth and Mars, and another in which Uranus, Neptune, or Mercury were eliminated.

Mercury’s perihelion, the closest point in a planet’s orbit around the Sun, moves about 1.5 degrees every 1,000 years, a rate very close to that of Jupiter. If the two fell in sync (resonance), there is a one percent chance that Mercury will be knocked out of orbit and ejected from the solar system or on a collision course with Venus, the Sun, or even Earth during the next three to four years . billion years.

While a complete collapse of the solar system sounds like a pretty catastrophic event, that kind of demise could stretch out over billions of years.

We can rest easy because, as the authors make clear, these types of events only happen in our corner of the universe about once every 100 billion years , and the effects take millions of years to appear. There is nothing to worry about unless there is the possibility of living forever.

The work is approved for publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society and can be read in the arXiv archive document.

Referencia: Journal Article Brown, Garett Rein, Hanno

On the long-term stability of the Solar System in the presence of weak perturbations from stellar flybys. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

YR 2022 10.1093/mnras/stac1763 OP stac1763 DOI:

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