February 5, 2020

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Uranus and Neptune’s might be on collision

Uranus and Neptune collision

The Voyager 2 mission photographed the two ice giants, Uranus (left) and Neptune (right). Left: NASA/JPL-Caltech; Right: NASA

Because the ice giant planets Uranus and Neptune have similar masses, sizes, and distances from the Sun, scientists often thought they formed in a similar way.
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Because the ice giant planets Uranus and Neptune have similar masses, sizes, and distances from the Sun, scientists often thought they formed in a similar way.

But the two planets also have many differences, indicating they might not be as similar as they seem at first blush.
Instead, each ice giant could have experienced its own unique, traumatic event in its past, putting them on two different evolutionary tracks. And in order to create a more complete picture of how the early solar system formed, scientists need to know exactly how our outermost planets came to be.
Now, a team of researchers has used computer simulations to show that collisions with large, rocky bodies could have led to the two planets’ diverging histories, possibly explaining their differences.