Astronomers have made an amazing discovery about the planet Jupiter: based on simulation, a giant planet has spent a lot of its early life drifting through the solar system and settled into its current orbit only after drifting in from around 4 times further from the sun than it currently is. Within the past 2 decades, scientists have discovered enough planets around other stars to offer you a clearer image of the average solar system, and also to show the ways wherein our own solar system is really odd.
For example, most systems have gas giant planets, but these hot Jupiters have a tendency to orbit quite close to their host stars. Which makes our solar system an outlier. Our system’s gas giants orbit in the outer solar system, whilst the interior region is reserved for rocky planets such as our own. However, based on a brand new simulation, our home system is stranger than we believed. Among the outstanding mysteries of the solar system entails the Trojan asteroids. The Trojans are a set of asteroids that circle the Sun in the same orbit as Jupiter, but in a space in either front of or behind the giant planet.
Both of these groups must be pretty much equal, except that the main group of Trojans has about 50% more asteroids. According to calculations by researchers at Lund University, the only way that discrepancy might have occurred is whether Jupiter wasn’t always located where it’s today. The researchers simulations suggest Jupiter started out as an Earth sized planet about 4 times further away than it’s today. Over hundreds of centuries, Jupiter slowly migrated closer to our Sun until it ended up in its current location. As the giant planet started drifting closer to the interior solar system, it began picking up stray asteroids.
These asteroids eventually became the Trojans. Due to the way in that Jupiter migrated, it ended up amassing more asteroids in front than behind. That is why this strange discrepancy exist. The Lund researchers state Jupiter spent about 700, 000 years in this drifting period, before settling down into its current orbit about 3 million years after it formed. It’s then spent the last four billion decades or so living a good life in its own section of the solar system, shared with a whole lot of Trojan asteroids. It is possible that the other giant planets had an identical early phase, so all of our giant planets might have originated much farther from the Sun than they now reside. If so, scientists would need to rethink much of what they believed they understood about our solar system’s formation. Though this changes the way we view our own solar system, it does not make it more in line with all the other ones out there.