Though researchers continue to hunt for the mysterious Planet 9, experts have discovered evidence that another planet, residing between Uranus and Saturn, «escaped» billions of years ago.
The research, published in the scientific journal Icarus, suggests that an «ice giant» was «kicked out» in the early days of the solar system by unknown forces.
“We now know that there are thousands of planetary systems in our Milky Way galaxy alone,” the study’s lead author, Carnegie Institution for Science researcher Matt Clement said in a statement. “But it turns out that the arrangement of planets in our own solar system is highly unusual, so we are using models to reverse engineer and replicate its formative processes. This is a bit like trying to figure out what happened in a car crash after the fact – how fast were the cars going, in what directions, and so on.”
The researchers created 6,000 simulations to look at the early days of the solar system and found that Jupiter orbited around the sun three times for every two times that Saturn did, suggesting their relationship has evolved significantly.
The model also demonstrated that the positions of Uranus and Neptune, both ice giants themselves, were altered by the Kuiper belt, as well as the aforementioned planet that was kicked out.
“This indicates that while our solar system is a bit of an oddball, it wasn’t always the case,” explained Clement. “What’s more, now that we’ve established the effectiveness of this model, we can use it to help us look at the formation of the terrestrial planets, including our own, and to perhaps inform our ability to look for similar systems elsewhere that could have the potential to host life.”
In October, scientists discovered an Earth-sized rogue planet found floating in the Milky Way.
Two months prior, a separate group of researchers suggested there could be more «rogue» planets than there are stars in the Milky Way galaxy.