Saturday, October 22, 2016

Give Me a Place to Stand and I Will Move the Sun

A slight mistranslation of Archimedes original, usually rendered as "Give me the place to stand, and I shall move the earth." We have now found a place from which to move the entire solar system. Maybe . . . Caltech: Planet 9 from outer space responsible for ‘curious tilt of the sun’
Planet Nine—the undiscovered planet at the edge of the Solar System that was predicted by the work of Caltech’s Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown in January 2016—appears to be responsible for the unusual tilt of the sun, according to a new study.
The large and distant planet may be adding a wobble to the solar system, giving the appearance that the sun is tilted slightly.

“Because Planet Nine is so massive and has an orbit tilted compared to the other planets, the solar system has no choice but to slowly twist out of alignment,” says Elizabeth Bailey, a graduate student at Caltech and lead author of a study announcing the discovery.
The six most distant known objects in the solar system with orbits exclusively
 beyond Neptune (magenta) all mysteriously line up in a single direction. 
Such an orbital alignment can only be maintained by some outside force—
like a planet with 10 times the mass of Earth. CALTECH/R. HURT (IPAC)
All of the planets orbit in a flat plane with respect to the sun, roughly within a couple degrees of each other. That plane, however, rotates at a six-degree tilt with respect to the sun—giving the appearance that the sun itself is cocked off at an angle. Until now, no one had found a compelling explanation to produce such an effect. “It’s such a deep-rooted mystery and so difficult to explain that people just don’t talk about it,” says Brown, the Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor of Planetary Astronomy.

Brown and Batygin’s discovery of evidence that the sun is orbited by an as-yet-unseen planet—that is about 10 times the size of Earth with an orbit that is about 20 times farther from the sun on average than Neptune’s—changes the physics. Planet Nine, based on their calculations, appears to orbit at about 30 degrees off from the other planets’ orbital plane—in the process, influencing the orbit of a large population of objects in the Kuiper Belt, which is how Brown and Batygin came to suspect a planet existed there in the first place.
So where does the Archimedes quote come in?
Planet Nine’s angular momentum is having an outsized impact on the solar system based on its location and size. A planet’s angular momentum equals the mass of an object multiplied by its distance from the sun, and corresponds with the force that the planet exerts on the overall system’s spin. Because the other planets in the solar system all exist along a flat plane, their angular momentum works to keep the whole disk spinning smoothly.
It is literally at the long end of the lever arm from the whole solar system, and is able to slowly but surely move all the other planets in their orbits.

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