Pluto's Orbit That Takes 248 Years for a Revolution is Highly Chaotic: Study
Once a member of our planetary system, Pluto has been a topic of interest for researchers due to its eccentric and mysterious nature. Multiple research papers have been published in efforts to explain its orbit. The most recent suggests that Pluto’s orbit is on the edge of cataclysmic chaos. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study was conducted by researchers from the United States and Japan. The team found that Pluto’s orbit is stable over longer timescales but it is highly chaotic and is subject to drastic changes over shorter timescales.
Explaining Pluto’s peculiar characteristic, one of the lead researchers, Dr Renu Malhotra said that while other planets follow a circular orbit around the sun, Pluto is radically different. The other planets follow an ecliptic path, whereas Pluto’s orbit is highly elliptical. The exoplanet takes 248 years to complete a single revolution around the sun. This eccentric nature results in Pluto spending 20 years closer to the Sun than Neptune.
So many mysteries have intrigued researchers for decades. This interest resulted in multiple efforts that revealed an astonishing property about what prevents Pluto from colliding with Neptune despite being in the same orbital path. As per Dr Malhotra, this property is called “Mean Motion Resonance.”
“This condition ensures that at the time that Pluto is at the same heliocentric distance as Neptune, its longitude is nearly 90 degrees away from Neptune’s. Later, another peculiar property of Pluto’s orbit was discovered: Pluto comes to perihelion at a location well above the plane of Neptune’s orbit,” Dr Malhotra told Universe Today. This type of orbital resonance is called vZLK oscillation – von Zeipel, Lidov, and Kozai oscillation.
The results surfaced after the researchers conducted a numerical simulation of Pluto’s orbit for up to five billion years into the future of the solar system. The research also paves the path to study the peculiar nature of the other Pluto-sized objects, also known as, Plutinos.