Big collision behind unusual tilt of Uranus

Rodiano Bonacci
Luglio 7, 2018

And this isn't the only thing that makes the planet so unusual. An worldwide team of experts has tried to understand what implications a massive object hitting Uranus in the past would have had. The research seems to show that the ice giant's tilted position was the result of a collision between the planet and a massive object, which took place about 4 billion years ago.

Uranus also has a "very, very odd " magnetic field and is extremely cold, even though it "should" be warmer, according to Kegerreis.

The worldwide team of experts ran more than 50 different impact scenarios into a "supercomputer" to figure out if it could have formed the conditions that shaped Uranus's evolution.

Scientists used a high-resolution simulation to confirm that an object twice the size of Earth collided with Uranus and altered its tilt.

Lead writer Jacob Kegerreis, Ph.D. from the Durham University Institute for Computational Cosmology, the researcher said: ' Uranus does spin on its side, its axis indicates on nearly ideal corners of all the other planets of the solar system.

Uranus is similar to the most common type of exoplanets - planets found outside of our solar system - and the researchers hope their findings will help explain how such planets evolved and understand more about their chemical composition. The researchers think that this is because the object only grazed the planet, hitting it hard enough to change its tilt but not enough to affect its atmosphere, according to a statement from Durham University.

But this enormous object crashing into Uranus did more than just knock it into a new tilt. Researchers said that the trapping of this internal heat can explain the extreme cold temperatures of Uranus' outer atmosphere (-216 °C, -357 °F). New research shows that Uranus, a chilly, hostile planet with a number of peculiar features, was the victim of a devastating impact during those early years, and it might explain some of the planet's unusual personality.

According to Kegerreis, this collision could also explain two other oddities about the tilted planet. From the same material could be formed a system of rings and satellites of Uranus.

The research could also help to provide an explanation for how Uranus' planetary rings were formed.

Computer simulations were used by the team in order to determine how the evolution of the planet should look like.

The simulations also suggested that debris from the impactor could form a thin shell near the edge of the planet's ice layer and trap the heat emanating from Uranus' core. He also noted that the team aims to study Uranus' chemistry and the different ways that an impact like this could have affected its atmosphere.

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