The Madness Of The Planets
December 31, 2013 12:25 PM   Subscribe

I am a staunch believer in leading with the bad news, so let me get straight to the point. Earth, our anchor and our solitary haven in a hostile universe, is in a precarious situation. The solar system around us is rife with instability.

Chaos And Stability Of The Solar System
Is The Solar System Stable?
posted by the man of twists and turns (42 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
WE ARE COMING.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 12:35 PM on December 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is The Solar System Stable?

Well... what kind of a timescale are we talking about here?
posted by Artw at 12:37 PM on December 31, 2013 [5 favorites]


That Nautilus sure is good looking.
posted by notyou at 12:38 PM on December 31, 2013


Quickly! To the "B" Ark!
posted by entropicamericana at 12:39 PM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well... what kind of a timescale are we talking about here?

I'd think geologic time scales, but that doesn't rule out a small local occurrence, that resets local species. (us, the humans)

We so need to diversify, a group on the fourth planet, a few asteroid enclaves. Jetpacks really work in microgravity!
posted by sammyo at 12:46 PM on December 31, 2013


God does not play dice with the universe.
He's more of a roulette guy.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:47 PM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure all this conflating of asteroid strikes with the possibility of inner planets colliding and careening into us really sits well with me.
posted by Artw at 12:47 PM on December 31, 2013


Well... what kind of a timescale are we talking about here?

This wiki has a good table.
posted by Valued Customer at 12:50 PM on December 31, 2013


Maybe we can find the wandering planet and live there...
posted by Artw at 12:52 PM on December 31, 2013


"The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be." -- Douglas Adams...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 12:52 PM on December 31, 2013 [28 favorites]


I would think that if anything were to go berserk and start ripping through the solar system willy-nilly it would have to be Pluto, still pissed about that "planet" snub.
posted by Curious Artificer at 12:56 PM on December 31, 2013


The 18th most massive object in the solar system being a "planet" was just embarrassing though. It's not even the biggest dwarf planet.
posted by Artw at 12:59 PM on December 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


I've got my eye on you, Mars!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:01 PM on December 31, 2013


The first comment in the OP was quite good.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:01 PM on December 31, 2013


Oh great, fodder for the "Worlds in Collision" cranks.

But seriously, this is really interesting. I love how chaos emerges from simple, deterministic rules.
posted by jcreigh at 1:03 PM on December 31, 2013


Jupiter actually formed quite a bit farther out and then, during the solar system’s initial 5 million years, executed a series of dramatic swoops. First it spiraled inward to the place where Mars is now (about 1.5 times the Earth-sun distance), as the dense gas in the nebula dragged it toward the sun. Then it migrated out past its current location, yanked by the gravitational influence of the newly formed planet Saturn. The whole process took about 500,000 years—an eternity in human terms, but blazingly fast for the solar system, which is 4.6 billion years old.



Jupiter be crazy.
posted by angrycat at 1:04 PM on December 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


So what are the results? Most of the calculations agree that eight billion years from now, just before the Sun swallows the inner planets and incinerates the outer ones, all of the planets will still be in orbits very similar to their present ones. In this limited sense, the solar system is stable.

Yay!
posted by Artw at 1:07 PM on December 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wait, hang on...
posted by Artw at 1:07 PM on December 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


There are way, way more known asteroids than I would have ever expected. This Asteroid Discovery video is really great. Watch it in HD. From the March 2013 MF thread Asteroid Discovery

Mixed in with the mass of asteroids are some in very odd orbits.
posted by jjj606 at 1:09 PM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


If the Sun is swallowing the inner planets, then why is it snowing? AHA.
posted by mittens at 1:09 PM on December 31, 2013 [8 favorites]


The Strange Attraction of Hot Jupiters
Why "Hot Jupiter" Exoplanets Aren't Eaten By Their Stars
A “hot Jupiter” challenges planetary formation theories
-------
The Grand Tack (paper at Nature, arXiv)
Jupiter Robbed Mass Of Mars

Asteroid Vesta is 'last of a kind' rock, has iron core.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:10 PM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


What are we here for? We're all here to go!
posted by edgeways at 1:14 PM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


A Startling Image That Shows Why Space Junk is a Nightmare
posted by Artw at 1:14 PM on December 31, 2013


If the Sun is swallowing the inner planets, then why is it snowing? AHA.

Because the Cold Gods command it.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:17 PM on December 31, 2013


Thanks jjj606 that was an amazing and enlightining video.
posted by sammyo at 1:19 PM on December 31, 2013


All I know is when we're rocketing out of our orbit, we'll remember that the lesson of Mondas was right in front of us.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 1:19 PM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


dwarf planet

"Little planet", please.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 1:44 PM on December 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


We so need to diversify, a group on the fourth planet, a few asteroid enclaves. Jetpacks really work in microgravity!

We should go farther out and set up a low-energy shop in the interstellar deeps, maybe with powered by enormous but gossamer-thin "solar" arrays.
posted by codswallop at 1:47 PM on December 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


All I know is when we're rocketing out of our orbit, I will *so* regret not buying that car with more legroom that got worse gas mileage.
posted by randomkeystrike at 2:17 PM on December 31, 2013


eight billion years from now, just before the Sun swallows the inner planets and incinerates the outer ones

I hope that's not a Tuesday. I have a doctor's appointment that day.
posted by briank at 2:45 PM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Relatedly, in "Restricted 3-body capture" a simulation similar to a moon-jupiter-sun system shows that the minor body is repeatedly captured and lost by the medium body. The page gives no sense of how long "2000/2π periods of the finite masses" is in relationship to time in our earth-moon-sun system, though.
posted by jepler at 3:21 PM on December 31, 2013


We had a good run. . .
posted by Danf at 5:25 PM on December 31, 2013


Our form is not well suited to the demands of deep space. We are not going to survive out there. We can only hope our robot children keep some memory of us in the distant future.
posted by humanfont at 5:44 PM on December 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't want to go...
posted by _Mona_ at 8:51 PM on December 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are way, way more known asteroids than I would have ever expected.

And yet there are way, way less brown asteroids than I expected.
posted by Twang at 11:27 AM on January 1


I've been thinking about the big asteroid that made the crater at Chicxulub 65 million years ago, extinguishing about half of all animal genera and ending the dinosaurs.

The question is: Could something like this happen again? Or is this a sort of phenomenon that only happened in the distant past?

In other words, do we still live a solar system where this sort of thing occurs? No, this event was of a bygone era, when the solar system was only 99% of its current age.
posted by neuron at 12:43 PM on January 1


please leave me alone space *hides under a blanket in the basement*
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 12:48 PM on January 1


To my mind, the chaotic nature of planetary interactions could be one explanation for the Fermi Paradox. We have seen there are so many different types of planetary systems that are possible, and life appears suited for a relatively small range of environments. Add to that the fact that planetary systems may not be stable over the long run, and we could simply end up with the probability that life bearing planets are very rare. This isn't even taking into account things like supernovas, gamma ray bursters, the need to avoid the galactic arms...there's a lot of obstacles against life arising, and we may have just been very, very lucky.
posted by happyroach at 1:14 PM on January 1


Happyroach, chaotic planetary interactions may be a factor, but probably not as important as others. Likewise, giant impacts or supernovas or GRBs - they become rarer as time goes on in the Solar system and the Galaxy, to the point that right now we're in a pretty calm Galactic neighborhood. (Although check back about that after Eta Carina goes boom, would you?) So complex life may (may) become more likely over time, after the first few billion years have elapsed. Hence Carl Sagan's famous quip in response to the Fermi Paradox that the aliens were just about to arrive.

I've read plausible arguments about the importance of Jupiter (to divert comets from the inner system) or the Moon (to stabilize our spin/orbit by providing a huge angular momentum sink), either of which would argue that the Earth is a very special case. But the Galaxy is a big place, and it looks like planets are everywhere...

(Gah, a few days too early to name drop... Early next week we're announcing an amazing three-body system, with strong interactions between all three. The wonderful thing about it is that we can actually solve the system with numerical integration, and there's a ticking clock in the system that lets us check whether we got it right or not. Another time.)
posted by RedOrGreen at 3:19 PM on January 1 [2 favorites]


Oh, good thing I can do something about it though.
Got some "Bean-O" for Jupiter.
I've got a lot of shims in my garage and some tools and a long crowbar. I just drive my jeep out and... should I bring a generator?
Giant rocks from the sky, eh? Planetary collisions? So, I'll just continue about my day then, shall I?

“Everything evolves to wisdom and peace—and stability—through big revolutionary events.”

True. I feel the same way after cutting loose the big burrito I had for lunch.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:02 AM on January 2


Oh great, fodder for the "Worlds in Collision" cranks.

Funny, none of these articles mentioned the discredited but always entertaining Immanuel Velikovsky, who inspired a classic Jerry Harrison track.
posted by ovvl at 3:39 PM on January 2


Why Is The Sun Going Quiet?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:50 AM on January 22


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