Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Planetary Binary Orbits
Name: Unknown
Status: Other
Age: N/A
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: Prior to 1993


Question:
Is a binary orbit possible? I mean, if there was another planet where would Earth be in six months of roughly the same mass, would it affect Earth's orbit any? Are there examples of binary orbits (not suns) in the cosmos? Any intelligent response would be appreciated.



Replies:
I think the movie was titled "Journey to the Far Side of the Sun". If currently accepted theories of planetary formation are correct, it is extremely unlikely that "twin" planets would form on opposite sides of the sun. These theories say that tiny "planetesimals" condensed out of the primordial solar dust cloud; over time, some of these bumped into their neighbors and stuck together. Eventually some of these became big enough to attract others gravitationally, and ultimately one which became the Earth dominated, sweeping out all of the matter in the vicinity of its orbit. Unfortunately, we have (so far) only one solar system to test the theories on. How do we know there is not a second Earth on the opposite side of the Sun? Well, Earth's orbit is not perfectly circular; it is an ellipse, and the Earth does not move at a constant speed in its orbit, so even if at a given time there were an Earth-sized body in the same orbit directly opposite the Earth, it would not stay directly opposite. I do not know if such a planet would ever be visible (it might always be lost in the glare of the sun), but its presence would still show up in the gravitational perturbations it would exert on the other planets (including the Earth).

RC Winther



There was an old sci-fi movie about a twin planet to the Earth locked into orbit exactly opposite the Earth. I cannot think of any reason why that would not be possible. There is no evidence of such a planetary system, but then there is no evidence of any planetary system outside our own; but that should change after the Hubble Space Telescope data is analyzed.

John Hawley


Click here to return to the Astronomy Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (help@newton.dep.anl.gov), or at Argonne's Educational Programs

NEWTON AND ASK A SCIENTIST
Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory