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. An worldwide team of experts has tried to understand what implications a massive object hitting Uranus in the past would have had. Largely made up of hydrogen and helium gas, the almost-rolling planet has no solid surface and temperatures within its atmosphere are as low as -216 degrees celsius.
In its early years, something massive, about twice the size of Earth rammed into Uranus, tilting the planet off axis and also possibly giving the planet its freezing temperatures.
Computer simulations were used by the team in order to determine how the evolution of the planet should look like.
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 flawless corners of all the other planets of the solar system.
The simulations also suggest the force of impact created a shell of debris around the planet's ice layer, trapping all heat from its core.
"Uranus spins on its side, with its axis pointing nearly at right angles to those of all the other planets in the solar system".
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NASA's Luis Teodoro, a study co-author, said that "all the evidence points to giant impacts being frequent during planet formation, and with this kind of research we are now gaining more insight into their effect on potentially habitable exoplanets". This new study suggests that an object twice the size of Earth could have hit Uranus, which might shed some light on some of the questions that we had about the seventh planet from the Sun.
Planetary debris launched into space after impact could have clumped together in orbit around Uranus and form its 27 known satellites and rings. It concluded that a glancing-but-violent strike could have provided the conditions now witnessed on the planet without sending it hurtling into space.
According to the simulations, this can most likely be explained by the impact object striking a grazing blow on the planet. 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.
The findings from this research have been published in The Astrophysical Journal.
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