What Happened to Uranus?
Any theory that tries
to explain the origin of the solar system will run afoul of
the question "What happened to Uranus and its family of
Uranus has more
than a dozen orderly moons. They revolve in almost perfect
circles exactly in the plane of Uranus' equator. This would
be an ideal example of how a gravitational system is thought
to evolve from a collapsing nebula, except for one detail:
the whole planet, fifteen times the mass of Earth, has been
tipped over on its side, so that its poles are near the
plane of its orbit and its equator rotates in a direction
that should be north and south. And most of its moons also
circle "north and south".
How could that
happen? If the moons formed before Uranus tilted, they
should still be orbiting in the plane of Uranus' original
equator. But if the moons were captured from the solar disk
after Uranus was tilted, they shouldn't be circling its
tilted equator. In either case, they should be circling its
poles. In fact, recently two tiny "captured" moons of Uranus
were discovered, and they do circle the poles.
It gets worse.
The path of Uranus' moons corresponds to Uranus' equator
better than the planets themselves correspond to the Sun's
equator. What could have given the odd-ball Uranus such an
orderly family when the Sun's own equator is tilted 7° to
its family of planets?
Uranus' tilt is
only the most blatant version of a larger problem. Saturn
tilts, too, a little more than the Earth. And, as with
Uranus, all but the tiny outer "captured" moons of Saturn
circle its tilted equator, as do the rings of Saturn.
Jupiter's main family of moons circle in the plane of
Jupiter's orbit. But Jupiter's poles aren't appreciably
tilted, so its moons orbit Jupiter's equator as well. Which
"rule" is dominant? Do the moons of Jupiter follow the rules
of the nebular theory, or are their orbits coincidental with
Jupiter's untilted poles?
aren't orderly. Nereid has an orbit so elongated that it
nearly escapes Neptune's influence. Triton, the largest
moon, is the only major moon that revolves backwards. Plus,
it's orbit is decaying. It can look forward to tidal
disruption or crashing into Neptune. It is impossible for a
retrograde moon to have formed around a planet by the
nebular theory -- it must have been formed elsewhere and
then captured or its orbit may have been reversed by a
None of these
systems are well-explained by the Nebular Theory of
planetary formation. The time has come to develop a new
theory. This new theory should take into account our new
understanding that most of the universe is made of plasma,
which obeys different rules than a gravity-only universe.
The new theory should consider the possibility that the
giant planets and their families of moons were each formed
as a separate cellular system. And the new theory should
take into account the possibility that our solar system also
has experienced an episodic history of cosmic birth and
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