Breaking things is fun…


A rogue supermassive gas giant throws earth on a highly eccentric orbit. The moon is decidedly unimpressed.

We may not always admit it, but breaking things is fun. But breaking things can also be hard, when those things are massive balls of roughly 6 * 10^24kg of iron and silicates making rounds around even more massive balls of 2 * 10^30gk of plasma. And some things just shouldn’t be destroyed if we want to live on…

Anyways, I wrote a little script suite to try and virtually destroy the Earth nonetheless. What it does is throw a little brown dwarf or large rogue planet (0.01 solar masses, e.g. more than 10 jupiters) at the inner solar system, at a relative velocity of 35 km/s. You’d think that this is the end of the world (and it may well be the end for us if the rogue planet throws a large asteroid at us on its way out — I didn’t really model a lot of asteroids for computation time reasons), but most of the time the result is decidedly boring: If the rogue planet has moons/satellites, it may lose those — but even that doesn’t happen all of the time. If it passes very close to one of the inner planets, it might throw them on very eccentric orbits. In no single iteration — and I’ve run a few during debugging and since, creating 9GB of simulated data by now — does any of our planets get ejected.

The worst that happens is what’s depicted above: On its way out, our rogue planet comes close to earth and throws it on a highly eccentric orbit, so much so that it crosses Venus’ orbit once a year. But even then, the moon keeps hugging the earth. It does get thrown on a slightly more eccentric orbit, but one that’s on average even closer to earth than it used to be. (Left: moon-earth distance over time. Right: polar view of moon’s orbit; the narrow band top right is it’s original, fairly circular orbit — more circular than in reality in fact; the broad band further in is its final eccentric orbit.


So I’m wondering: maybe it’s actually possible to eject the earth-moon system from the solar system without breaking it up? I guess I’ll have to run a few simulations with a more massive trespasser to find out…

Just for fun, the result of a different simulation: Here, the sun seems to be able to hold on to one of the rogue planet’s satellites — on a comet-like, mercury-crossing orbit (black ellipsis). All distances in metres from sun.


1 thought on “Breaking things is fun…

  1. Pingback: In Which The Earth Takes a Trip into the Kuiper Belt (and Beyond), While Hugging the Moon | Pan loquens

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