Computer simulation confirmed the previously hypothesized hypothesis, which explains the anomalies in the orbits of some trans-Neptune objects, not by the influence of a hypothetical planet, but by their own collective gravity.
Most bodies in the solar system travel in stable and ordered orbits. However, a small group of distant trans-Neptune objects stands out against this background. Their orbits do not experience the gravitational influence of Neptune itself, which makes them “isolated” from the rest of the solar system. They are farther than even the Kuiper Belt, which stretches approximately from Neptune’s orbit to Pluto – at a distance of 30 to 55 AU (astronomical units equal to the average radius of the Earth’s orbit). Their trajectories are elongated, and the planes of the orbits are inclined to the common plane of rotation of the Sun and planets.
The most significant of these objects is Sedna, which is approaching the Sun by no more than 76 AU, and at the farthest point, it goes to an impressive 937 AU – a few light minutes. Well, the most famous explanation of the anomaly of their orbits connects it with the attraction of the still not open “ninth planet” of the solar system. However, it is not possible to find the elusive Planet X in any way, so scientists are considering other hypotheses with no less attention.
So, in 2018, Ann-Marie Madigan and her colleagues showed that the same effect can be created by the collective gravity of many trans-Neptune objects themselves. In their movement, Sedna and other bodies come together from time to time and interact, as a result of which they acquire their unusual, abnormal orbits. In a new article published in The Astronomical Journal, Anne-Marie Madigan and Alexander Zderic develop and refine this hypothesis.
Using a supercomputer, scientists were able to conduct large-scale modeling of the motion and gravitational interactions of not only small isolated trans-Neptune objects but also of neighboring massive planets. Starting their virtual rotation, astronomers soon noticed that the trajectories of small bodies really change and gradually come to the anomalous form that is observed in reality.
At the same time, the authors of the work note that for the implementation of such a scenario, the total mass of interacting objects in the first stages should have been at least 20 Earth masses. “Theoretically, this is possible”, says Ann-Marie Madigan, “but it definitely goes against the general idea.” Perhaps new observations will help to find if not the “ninth planet”, then at least the missing trans-Neptune objects.