Feeds

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

Tipped over the solar system when planets yet unborn

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

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. ®

The Power of One Infographic

More from The Register

next story
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends
Boffins research: Ancient dinos may all have had 'potential' fluff
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.