Jupiter to Ejected Planet: ‘This Universe Ain’t Big Enough for the Two of Us’
If it hadn’t been for Jupiter, there would have been another planet in our solar system. Not cool, Jupiter. Not cool at all.
Jupiter is by far the largest planet in our solar system; the gas giant is more than two and a half times the size of all the other planets in our solar system combined. When you’ve got a planet
with an ego so big, the gravitational effects can be extreme.
Back in 2011, scientists postulated that a fifth gas giant once existed alonside its gas brothers Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, but that it was somehow ejected. Scientists suspected both Saturn and Jupiter, and so they kept a close eye on those two shifty characters for a few years. And then they discovered that Jupiter was the culprit after all.
Back when our solar system was first forming about four billion years ago, another planet had “close encounters” with Jupiter, who reminded the encroaching planet that he did not, in fact, invite him to Jupiter’s barbecue, so why is he all up in Jupiter’s grill?
When the ejected planet came close enough to Jupiter, the gravitational pull caused the planet to accelerate so much that it burst out of the sun’s gravitational pull. It just popped out of orbit, and Jupiter was left holding the smoking gun.
Ryan Cloutier, a PhD candidate in the University of Toronto’s Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, said:
“Ultimately, we found that Jupiter is capable of ejecting the fifth giant planet while retaining a moon with the orbit of Callisto. On the other hand, it would have been very difficult for Saturn to do so because Iapetus would have been excessively unsettled, resulting in an orbit that is difficult to reconcile with its current trajectory.”
So where did the ejected planet go? Apparently, the rocky core that scientists think is in the center of all the gas giants was broken up in the case of the ejected planet, and the asteroid belt which now orbits between Mars and Jupiter is the remains of what could have been a very nice planet, if it weren’t for the fact that Jupiter is so territorial.
Bottom line? Don’t mess with Jupiter.