A new research led by astronomers at Durham University in UK might provide us with some answers as to why Uranus is tilted on its side and why freezing temperatures are possible on this planet. An international team of experts has tried to understand what implications a massive object hitting Uranus in the past would have had. 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.
A collision could have shaped Uranus’ evolution
Computer simulations were used by the team in order to determine how the evolution of the planet should look like. The research seems to show that the ice giant’s tilted position was the result of a collision between the planet and a massive object, which took place about 4 billion years ago. This only confirms a study that was published some time ago. Also, according to the researchers, debris from the foreign object could have formed a shell close to the edge of Uranus’ ice layer and thus could have captured the heat that was emanating from the planet’s core. This could be a part of the reason why there are very cold temperatures in the planet’s outer atmosphere.
Uranus heavily affected by an impact
The new study was published in The Astrophysical Journal and its lead author, Jacob Kegerreis, stated that overall, scientists are almost certain that Uranus’ spinning on its side was caused by a giant impact, but there is not much evidence about how this happened exactly. This is the reason why “more than 50 different impact scenarios using a high-powered super computer” were used in order to try to understand how the planet evolved.
Based on the research’s findings, it seems that the young planet was most probably involved in a “cataclysmic collision” with an object that had at least two times the mass of Earth.