Washington: Scientists believe that our solar system might have sacrificed a giant planet to protect the Earth.
Dr. David Nesvorny of the Southwest Research Institute wondered whether the early solar system could have had five giant planets instead of four.
By running computer simulations with an additional giant planet with a mass similar to that of Uranus or Neptune, things suddenly fell in place.
They showed that one planet was ejected from the solar system by Jupiter, leaving four giant planets behind, and Jupiter jumped, leaving the terrestrial planets undisturbed.
“The possibility that the solar system had more than four giant planets initially, and ejected some, appears to be conceivable in view of the recent discovery of a large number of free-floating planets in interstellar space, indicating the planet ejection process could be a common occurrence,” added Nesvorny.
The study was recently published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.