Jun 18, 2019 | Updated: 05:32 PM EDT

Overtilting Planets Caused By Powerful Mechanism

Mar 06, 2019 08:19 AM EST

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Tilting of Planets
(Photo : https://pixabay.com/illustrations/solar-system-planet-planetary-system-11111/)

For more than a decade, astronomers have tried to find an explanation for planets in the solar system that seem to have an odd configuration. The orbits of these planets seem to have been pushed farther apart by a seemingly unknown mechanism. Researchers from Yale University say that they have found out what this powerful mechanism is. Their studies show that the planet's poles are mostly tilted because of this mysterious force.

Such findings could greatly affect how researchers estimate the climate, habitability, and structure of these so-called exoplanets. Their identification of these planets are deeply rooted in how they are in comparison to what they know about the earth. The results of their study was recently published in Nature Astronomy in its online edition, March 4, 2019.

NASA refers to this mission as the Kepler and it reveals that about 30% of the stars in our galaxy is similar to that of the sun and they refer to them as the "Super Earths." Their sizes fall relatively between the range of the Earth and Neptune. They have copular orbits and that it only takes them less than a 100-days to go around their specific star.

Curiously, most of these planets exist by pair with their orbits existing outside the natural points of determined stability. This exactly explains the unknown reason for the obliquity of the planets. Sarah Millholland and Gregory Laughlin, both Yale Astronomers say that "When planets such as these have large axial tilts, as opposed to little or no tilt, their tides drain the orbital energy faster into heat in the planets."

Simply, the tidal dissipation is causing these planets to tilt. The moon and the Earth actually fall under the same category. The Moon's orbits are slowly growing as a result of this tidal dissipation, but that of the earth is lengthened in the process.

"The over tilting of these planets directly identifies the characteristics of these exoplanets," says Yale astronomer Laughlin. The impact of tilting affects several of their physical characteristics. He added that their weather, climate and overall circulations depend a lot on the tilting. He further said that the seasons in the planet is affected by the tilting that it could go for the extremes at times. "Their weather patterns may not be trivial at all, but life exploration and its non-existence could be explained by such phenomenon," added Laughlin.

Support to further explore the phenomenon is coming from NASA Astrobiology Institute and the National Science Foundation Research Fellowship Program. To date, the study continues to explore other possibilities of tilting and whether or not it is possible for these planets to actually be livable. 

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