The solar system extends well beyond Pluto, encompassing small objects on their own unusual orbits around the Sun. How did they get there? A new study attempts to answer this question with simulations.
Models and Moving Objects
The largest objects in the solar system wield the most influence. Models that account for the Sun and the outer planets — Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune — can produce realistic approximations of the solar system’s overall gravitational influence.
So if you have a model of the major gravitational forces at play, you can drop in orbiting objects and see what they do over time. This sounds simple, but it’s a powerful tool when it comes to understanding the current structure of our solar system.
The evolution of the surface density of the disk with time (starting from the upper-left) as seen face-on (top) and edge-on (bottom). Click to enlarge. Yellow regions have a higher density than blue regions. The timescale P represents 1,000 years. The authors note the “cone” of orbits present prior to t = 4,300 P, as well as the coherent ring of orbits most prominent at t = 9,900 P, which corresponds to an “m = 1 mode”. [Zderic ...