Scientists have discovered a rare perpendicular solar system

Originally published at: Scientists have discovered a rare perpendicular solar system | Boing Boing


TIRED: Sci-fi narratives about parallel universes

WIRED: Sci-fi narratives about perpendicular universes


This matches up with our outstanding of gravity and poles, and it’s something that scientists have seen repeated in other galaxies, too.

There are different theories as to why this galaxy seems tilted at a right-angle;

Er, @thomdunn , don’t you mean Solar System(s)?


Are they sure C and D are planets? Isn’t that one of the reasons we kicked Pluto out of the club, that its 17° offset meant that it wasn’t cool enough to be part of the clique?


This confused the crap out of me. Do people really commonly conflate star systems & galaxies? I feel elitist & judgmental even wondering, but to me it’s exactly like mixing up numbers and letters, or spices and condiments, or, or… uh… similes and analogies.


Yeah, there’s definitely a problem with the front text of this post. It’s a star system, not a galaxy, which is a huge bundle of many star systems. Got confusing for a bit.




So it is one of the reasons Pluto doesn’t fit in well with the planets of our solar system, but really it’s a symptom of it being a smaller belt object, the sort that are easily scattered from the main plane. In our solar system nothing has pulled the eight largest masses away from that.

That doesn’t have to be the case though; you could easily have a planetary system disrupted by for instance a nearby star where even large planets are thrown out of alignment. This isn’t the first one they’ve found…for instance Upsilon Andromedae has planets much larger than Jupiter tilted about 30° apart. But I guess this one is particularly dramatic.

For the record, the smallest of the three planets here is listed as being about 5 times as massive as the Earth…so over 2000 times as massive as Pluto and obviously going to be very unlike it, even in terms of how their orbits relate to the rest of the system.


Yeah no it was a really sloppy mistake on my part.


Not typically, but my brain uses wrong words fairly often, so it is understandable.


That makes so much sense, I can absolutely see myself accidentally doing that. Thinking about cool weird shit is too exciting not to!

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right? me too. numbers, numbers on the other hand, no problem. hmmm… wait. what’s my debit pin again? heck what’s my phone number? ahg! when was i born!?

okay. the best ive got is… i dont substitute numbers where i mean to use regular words. at least not two often.


It worse if I just got talking to someone about something, say donuts, and then my brain is still on that subject and “donuts” will pop up in what I am typing.

And yes, sometimes a number I have put in thoughtlessly for the last 100 times, I suddenly have to try to remember.

Getting old is hell.

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donut GIF

interesting that homer eats the donut horizontal but holds it vertical

i don’t know if it’s better for a star system to be pre-eaten or post-eaten. one for the philosophers i guess


Anyone with better maths skills than me able to say if perpendicular planetary orbits are stable over a long period of time?

There is nothing particular about perpendicular orbits that make them more or less stable; i.e., it shouldn’t approach any of the other bodies much differently than if the orbits were coplanar. It’s far more unusual to find planets in perpendicular orbits at all, because they would have formed from the protostellar disk, which is (almost always) aligned with the parent star’s spin axis.

That being said, being found in a perpendicular orbit suggests that the system overall has some inherent instability. These planets have probably been deviated from the planar orbits by the Kozai mechanism, where interactions with other bodies in the system can alter the inclination (and other orbital elements) of the orbit. I would not be surprised if later on they find the star is in a long-period eccentric orbit with another star.


Maybe it’s to be expected that the scientific publication not include anything as pedestrian (and accessible) as a diagram of the orbits. But the layman’s version in the NYT, where they have a whole graphics division – c’mon, it’s crying out for a graphic, how lazy not to put one in.


Their orbits look perpendicular to us, but maybe our orbits look perpendicular to them?


That’s not how looking at things or perpendicularity work…

There is no angle where our solar system looks like it has any polar orbiting planets, because none of our planets have a polar orbit.

The sun spins about its axis, and the equator of the sun describes a plane, or disc. This disc is the same plane (on average) that the protostellar/protoplanetary disc that formed our solar system span in.

As dust and gas coalesced to form the sun, everything kept orbiting along that plane.

This is due to the conservation of momentum inherent to spacetime and matter.

For there to be a planet that has an orbit far outside that plane, it would have to come from some other solar system and been captured, or some unimaginable force must have pushed their orbits into the high inclination after forming along the orbital plane, or something must have interacted with the star to incline the plane of its own rotation.

“Maybe we’re the perpendicular ones” is about as sensical as saying “the real coplanar orbits were the friends we made along the way.”