Why Is Uranus On Its Side? Scientists May Know The Answer

As the seventh planet from the Sun, Uranus is famous for being an ice giant (and the subject of toilet humor, at times) that’s uniquely tipped over compared to every other planet in the solar system, evidenced by the sideways position of its rings. Turns out, there’s a big reason for this and scientists may have just discovered what it actually is.

Why Uranus Is Sideways

As an ice giant named Uranus, the planet is famous for being the subject of toilet humor. However, as an actual planet in our solar system, it’s perhaps best known for being tipped over more than 90 degrees to its side. The same can be said for its ring system and the orbits of its 27 known moons. Naturally, this pushed scientists to wonder whether there is a clear cut reason as to why this specific planet is sideways in relative to the plane of the solar system it’s in.

And now, astronomers believe that this unique planetary configuration is the result of a violent collision that happened shortly after the planet was born.

While a good theory, evidence around this particular suggestion seemed elusive at first, mostly because simulations have struggled to generate the Uranus system that we see today, with many factors such as the mass of its post-impact debris disk standing in the way.

That has all changed recently, however, since a team of researchers had found success in investigating how frigid planets are formed as well as how their moons came to be.

And according to the report, published last week in the scientific journal Nature Astronomy, a heavenly body with a mass between one and three times that of the modern Earth slammed into the side of Uranus, leaving it tipped over to the state where it’s at now currently.

"This model is the first to explain the configuration of Uranus' moon system, and it may help explain the configurations of other icy planets in our solar system such as Neptune," Shigeru Ida, study lead author from the Earth-Life Science Institute at the Tokyo Institute of Technology in Japan, said.

solar system As the Sun ages, scientists predict it may soon run out of fuel and start to expand. Pixabay

Join the Discussion