Uranus has always been a bit eccentric in our solar system and a new simulation presented by a group of researchers can explain why.
Uranus, the seventh planet of the sun, is a peculiar ice giant that is tilted at an angle of 98 degrees – while all other planets spin on a vertical axis relative to its orbit, Uranus rotates on a horizontal axis. Researchers suggest that this may have been caused by a massive collision.
Jacob Kegerreis, a PhD researcher at Durham University, presented the analysis that a huge rock, possibly the size of a small planet, collided with Uranus, causing it to tilt dramatically, affecting its spin, magnetic field, and even its distribution of heat.
Kegerreis and his fellow researchers created a high-resolution simulation to show exactly how that would have been 3 to 4 billion years ago. The impact would have been catastrophic.
In addition to affecting the planet's slope, the impact event may also have spurred the development of Uranus's thick outer ice layer, which keeps the planet's core heat locked from within. Uranus is the only planet in our solar system that does not leak heat from its core, reaching temperatures of -371 degrees Fahrenheit at some of its colder points.
The impact probably caused the larger moons and rings of Uranus, which orbit in line with their rotation, to gain their unique path as well.
There is still much to learn about Uranus, considering that only one probe has examined the planet closely, and that was Voyager 2 in 1986.