Feeds

Sun’s lost cousin may be to blame for wonky ecliptic

Tipped over the solar system when planets yet unborn

Security for virtualized datacentres

Sol may have had a near stellar neighbour at the time earth was formed, and its gravity could be the reason that planets in our solar system don’t orbit neatly around the Sun’s equator.

That’s the thrust of a new letter in Nature, titled A primordial origin for misalignments between stellar spin axes and planetary orbits.

Author Konstantin Batygin contends that as stars often appear in clusters – Alpha Centauri comprises three stars – the disk of matter surrounding a young star and nearly always spreading from its equator could be tugged about by a near stellar neighbour. The gravity of that near neighbour would pull at the star and the disk of matter surrounding it. Once the matter in the disk coagulates into planets they won’t orbit at the host star’s equator.

Earth orbits about seven degrees away from the Sun’s equatorial plane, in what has come to be known as the ecliptic plane. Most of the other planets in the solar system orbit very close to the same plane, excepting recently-demoted Pluto.

Humanity has, to date, observed just one other multi-planet solar system, Kepler 30, and its three planets orbit the star’s equator. But astronomer Josh Winn of MIT likes Batygin’s theory because astronomers have, of late, also spotted gas giants with tilted orbits.

Batygin believes the planet responsible for tugging Earth into its odd orbit is still out there somewhere. So are lots of exoplanets that may prove his theory. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
'Utter killjoy Reg hacks have NEVER BEEN LAID', writes a fan
'Shuddit, smarty pants!' Some readers reacted badly to our last Doctor Who review ...
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
White LED lies: It's great, but Nobel physics prize-winning great?
How artificial lighting could offer an artificial promise
NASA eyeballs SOLAR HEAT BOMBS, MINI-TORNADOES and NANOFLARES on Sun
Astro boffins probe fiery star's hidden depths
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.