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Something big crashed into Uranus and changed forever

This composite image, created in 2004, with the Keck Observatory, telescope, adaptive optics, shows Uranus’ two hemispheres of the brain. Credit: Lawrence Sromovsky, University of Wisconsin-Madison/W. W. Keck Observatory

It turns out that Uranus is so weird because of a massive collision billions of years ago.

A new study confirms that this is a collision with a huge object that was about twice the size of the Earth — would have led to the planet’s extreme tilt and other unusual features.

Uranus, the planet with the unforgettable name is unique in a number of ways. “Of all the planets in the solar system are rotating more or less the same way … but Uranus is completely on his side,” Jacob Kegerreis, the new study’s lead author and a researcher at Durham University’s Institute for Computational Cosmology in the uk, told Space.com. And this is not the only thing that makes the planet so strange.

Uranus also has a “very, very strange” magnetic field and it is extremely cold, even though it “should” be warmer, according to Kegerreis. In this study, Kegerreis and his team of astronomers seek to explain much of the planet odd functions by assigning them to a collision with a huge, icy object about 4 billion years ago. [Photos of Uranus, the Tilted Giant]

To better understand how the impact affected Uranus’ evolution, the team used a powerful supercomputer to run a simulation of tremendous collisions — something that has never been done before. This study demonstrates that an older study that suggested Uranus’ significant tilt was caused by a collision with a solid object.

The researchers suspect that this object was probably a young protoplanet, made of stone and ice. This collision is “virtually the only way” that we can explain Uranus’ tilt, Kegerreis said.

Amazingly, Uranus, preserving the atmosphere after this effect. The researchers think that this is because the object only has grazed the planet, hitting it hard enough to make her tilt, but not enough to affect its atmosphere, according to a statement from Durham University.

It is likely that this type of event is not uncommon in the universe: “All the evidence points to the giant impact is often during planet formation, and with this kind of research, we are now gaining more insight into their effect on potential habitable exoplanets,” Luis Teodoro, study co-author and researcher at the BAER/NASA Ames Research Center, said in the statement.

But this huge object crashing into the Planet has more than just knock in a new tilt. According to this research, when the object hit Uranus, some of the debris from the impact could have formed a thin skin, which still trap heat from the planet’s core. This may partly explain why Uranus’ outer atmosphere is extremely cold.

According to Kegerreis, this collision could also explain two other peculiarities about the planet tilted. First, it could explain how and why some of Uranus’ moons formed. The researchers think that the impact could have beaten rock and ice in the young planet’s orbit — debris that later became some of Uranus’ 27 moons. In addition, they think that the collision could change the direction of rotation of a moon, which already existed at the time. Last year, a separate study, also examined this aspect of the collision.

The researchers also suggest that the collision would have made of the melted ice and chunks of rock in the planet, which is tilted, its magnetic field, according to the statement.

After this study, the researchers hope that this study of a collision with a still higher resolution simulations to better understand Uranus’ evolution, according to Kegerreis. He also noted that the team is committed to a study of Uranus’ chemistry and the different ways in which an effect such as this may have had an influence on the atmosphere.

This work was published in The Astrophysical Journal on July 2, 2018.

Original article on Space.com.

 

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