One of our planets is missing!

The Earth once had an extra planetary neighbour that has been lost, astronomers believe.
The additional world, about the size of Mars, was sent hurtling into the Sun or got flung out into space.
But it left cosmic footprints as evidence of its existence in the solar system’s asteroid belt.
American astronomers Sean Raymond, of the University of Colorado, and John Chambers of the Carnegie Institution in Washington DC, looked at the orbits of the known planets.
They were puzzled by a large gap between two of the worlds which, as the Nasa graphic above shows, is filled by asteroids.
“There’s room for another planet between Mars and Jupiter,” Chambers tells New Scientist magazine today.
“Given that planets formed everywhere else, why couldn’t another planet have formed there?”
The scientists produced computer simulations of the region and found that a planet the size of Mars may have existed there.
But the changing orbits of Jupiter and Saturn created a gravitational effect that kicked the mystery world into the Sun or out of the solar system entirely, they say.

© Paul Sutherland. Unauthorised reproduction forbidden.

Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

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Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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