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Jupiter Might Have Expelled a 5th Gas Giant Planet From Our Solar System

We know Jupiter is a big planet, but it turns out it may also be a big bully.

Canadian researchers believe that Jupiter might have forced out another gas giant planet, roughly four billion years ago. The theory of a 5th gas giant once inhabiting our solar system (Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune, and Uranus being the other four), was first put forth in 2011, as a way to explain why the orbits of Earth and Mars don’t quite make sense.

The two main suspects in the case were Jupiter and Saturn, but the researchers used computer models to show that the case for Saturn doesn’t really hold up, and that Jupiter looks like the guilty party. They looked at the orbits of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn to identify which one made more sense as the responsible planet.

The belief is the lost planet would have been more like Uranus and Neptune, making it heavier than Saturn and Jupiter. Jupiter would have been able to expel its heavier heavenly body with a sort of slingshot effect that would have resulted from Jupiter and the mystery planet (we should call it Outlandia) being close together, and Jupiter moving nearer to the Sun, with the combination making the mystery planet spin fast enough to break out of its gravitational orbit, off into the abyss of space.

This is still just a theory, though plausible, but maybe out there, lost to time, adrift in the cosmos, is a lost brother from our little corner of the universe, and it carries a piece of us with it to the furthest reaches of existence, a forgotten traveler on a cosmic journey with no destination.

Or it crashed into a star and it was destroyed a long time ago.

Either way, pretty cool.

What would you name this mystery planet? Encounter the final frontier of our comments below to tell us.

Image: NASA

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