The solar system can contain 65 thousand planets! This is an amazing theoretical calculation

The Earth, along with 7 other planets, with the exception of Pluto, revolves around a giant star that we call the “Sun”, thanks to its strong gravitational pull. Our sun, with its planets revolving in its orbit, forms what is known as the “solar system”.

We are talking here about Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. But is this the maximum number of planets that can revolve around the sun? Or is there room for more?

In fact, our solar system contains more planets than usual compared to other known planetary systems. In all, there are 812 known planetary systems containing three or more confirmed planets, as well as only one system containing the same number of planets as the Solar System, the Kepler-90 system.

There is a good chance that many of these systems contain smaller inner planets, which we have not been able to observe, so it is unlikely that the Solar System is the most crowded planetary system among our cosmic neighbours.

But this idea also highlights that eight planets is a number close to the maximum growth limit for planetary systems naturally.

For this we have to move to the theoretical and imaginary world, in order to discover the maximum number of planets that can revolve around the sun, ignoring some natural factors that may limit the number of planets formed.

An imagined theoretical solar system

“There are a lot of aspects to consider when we want to know the maximum number of planets that can exist in a single system,” Sean Raymond, an astronomer who specializes in planetary systems at the Purdue Astrophysics Laboratory, told Live Science.

There is no doubt that the structure of the solar system comes as a result of several complex factors, including: the size and quality of the star and planets, in addition to the number of moons orbiting each planet, and the location of major asteroids and comets (such as the asteroid belt extending between Jupiter and Mars, and the Kuiper belt located after the planet Neptune). , the direction of the planets’ orbits, and the amount of matter left from the formation of the sun to the formation of the planets.

Our solar system has more planets than usual / shutterstock

The stabilization of a planetary system into a stable formation is a process that takes hundreds of millions of years of collision and attraction between the planets of the system.

But if we were a highly advanced civilization, possessing technologies and resources far greater than our present capabilities; It would be possible to overcome many of these limitations, and design a solar system filled with the maximum number of planets.

In an imaginary, theoretical solar system we will assume that the materials available to us for the formation of planets are unlimited, and we will assume that we can produce them artificially and arrange them according to our will. It would also be possible to remove moons, asteroids, comets, and other obstacles that might complicate matters further.

The only limitations that cannot be removed are that the gravitational pull of the planets and the Sun will remain constant at their natural levels, and the planets will revolve around the Sun in a stable arrangement without any interference.

A planet is defined as a celestial body in the orbit of the Sun, having sufficient mass to achieve hydrostatic equilibrium (which makes it circular), and clearing the area around its orbit of debris.

This is exactly what caused Pluto to not be considered a real planet, according to the International Astronomical Union.

Increasing the number of planets requires making them small

The number of orbits that the solar system can accommodate depends primarily on the sizes of the planets. In an imagined solar system, the maximum number of planets possible depends on the number of planetary orbits that can be placed around the sun, before the system begins to lose its stability.

When a planetary system becomes unstable, the orbits of the planets begin to overlap with each other, which means that they can collide or repel each other under the influence of gravity, as happens when planets are thrown out of the system.

The number of orbits the solar system accommodates depends on the sizes of the planets / shutterstock

The number of orbits the solar system accommodates depends on the sizes of the planets / shutterstock

The lowest possible safe distance between the orbits of the various planets in a stable system actually depends on the size of each planet, as objects of smaller mass are affected by the planet’s gravity, as happens with the moon orbiting the Earth.

Larger planets have more gravitational force. For this reason, we will find that the distance between the orbits of Earth and Mars (about 78.3 million km) is about seven times less than the distance between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter (about 550.7 million km), according to NASA.

Therefore we will also find that the number of orbits that the solar system can accommodate depends primarily on the sizes of the planets. Jupiter, for example, is 300 million times larger than Earth, which means that Jupiter’s Hale radius is 10 times larger.

This also means that 10 separate Earth orbits can be installed, within the same space occupied by Jupiter’s current orbit. It can therefore be argued that maximizing the number of planets in our system will require making the planets as small as possible.

Planets rotate in opposite directions

Although the size of the planets is important, there is another clever trick that can be used to add a few orbits, regardless of size: changing the direction the planets orbit the sun.

In the current solar system, all the planets revolve within their orbits around the sun in the same direction. The reason for this is that the planets formed from a huge cloud of dust, which was orbiting in the same direction around the sun. It would, however, be possible to force the planets to orbit the sun in the opposite direction within our engineered solar system.

But it’s still a bit fanciful, because it’s very unlikely that there are retrograde orbits in nature, due to the nature in which planets are formed.

It must be said that if two planets revolve around the sun in opposite directions, their gravitational forces may weaken and the minimum safe distance between the two orbits will decrease.

Raymond explained, “If two planets are in different orbits and are moving in the same direction, they will have more time to meet each other in transit, which creates a greater gravitational kick. But moving in opposite directions means that they will pass each other and interact for a shorter time.” That they can get closer without collision or repulsion.

Thus, by shifting the planets of our engineered system into retrograde orbits, as in the carousel when horses move in opposite directions, we will be able to reduce the required distance between each orbit enough to add more planets.

Jupiter is 300 million times larger than Earth / shutterstock

Jupiter is 300 million times larger than Earth / shutterstock

The smaller the planets, the larger the number around the sun

So far, we’ve assumed that each orbit in our engineered solar system contains only one planet. However, we find that it is actually possible for several planets to share a single orbit, and the best example of this is undoubtedly found in our current solar system.

Jupiter has two groups of asteroids that share the same orbit, known as Greek asteroids and Trojans. These clusters are located about 60 degrees in front of and behind the gas giant as it orbits the sun. But astronomers think it’s possible for planets to share the same orbit in this way, too. They described these virtual worlds as Trojan planets.

“People are actively looking for examples of Trojan planets, among systems outside our solar system, because they would be expected to form naturally,” Raymond explained. But we haven’t spotted any of them yet, according to Raymond.

If we want to have the maximum number of planets within our engineered solar system, we should have as many Trojan planets as possible, but you would still need to leave enough space between the planets in one orbit for the system to remain stable.

In a study published in Celestial Mechanics and Dynamical Astronomy in 2010, two astronomers used the Hill radius to determine the number of planets that could share one orbit.

They found that as many as 42 Earth-sized planets could share a single orbit. The smaller the sizes of the planets, the greater the number of planets that can share the same orbit.

There is no doubt that the chances of this number of planets sharing one orbit naturally are practically non-existent, because each planet must be exactly the same size, and all form at the same time to achieve stability, but this amount of orbital sharing becomes possible in our engineered solar system , and consequently increases the number of planets we can add.

  The solar system could contain more than 65,000 planets / shutterstock

The solar system could contain more than 65,000 planets / shutterstock

Maximum theoretical planets

Now that we understand the basic data we need to design a solar system full of planets, it’s finally time to put in the numbers so we can identify as many planets as possible.

Thankfully, Raymond did it for us using his computer simulations, the finer details of which can be found on his Planet Planet blog. But it’s important to note that these calculations are based on theories that astronomers use to come up with logical simulations, but they are not peer-reviewed models, so they should be considered as fun speculation.

Raymond designed a system that spans a thousand astronomical units from the sun, in order to add as many planets as possible. The astronomical unit represents the average distance between the Sun and the Earth’s orbit, about 150 million km.

The current known boundary of our solar system lies within 100 astronomical units of the sun, according to the European Space Agency, but the effect of solar gravity could extend much further than that. The Raymond model uses planets of equal size with opposite orbits.

Taking all of the above into consideration, we will conclude that using Earth-sized planets will help you install 57 orbits, each containing 42 planets, to get a total of 2394 planets.

But if planets smaller by a tenth the size of the Earth (that is, about the size of the mass of Mars), 121 orbits can be installed, each containing 89 planets, bringing the total to 10,769 planets.

But if the planets are the size of the Moon (100 times smaller than the mass of the Earth), you will have 341 orbits, each containing 193 planets, bringing the total to 65,813 planets.

Obviously, we’re in front of very large numbers here, and the ability to design systems that are so complex is far beyond human capabilities.

However, this entertaining and imaginative thought experiment highlights the existence of an area in our solar system that can accommodate much more than the eight planets that we know today, yet it is highly unlikely that any additional planets formed naturally.

Source: Arabi Post


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