What Would Happen if A Planet Suddenly Disappeared From The Solar System?
What would happen if a planet suddenly disappeared from the solar system?
The solar system comprises eight planets and several smaller bodies, all of which are held together by the Sun’s gravity. In school, we were taught that the planets have well-defined orbits around the Sun, but… What if a planet other than Earth suddenly disappears from the solar system? Would there be any effect on Earth if this happened?
Before we start with the thought experiment, we must remember one fundamental thing, GRAVITY. In the solar system, all the planets remain in their places thanks to the gravity of the Sun, and, in turn, each planet exerts different forces on the rest of the planets that depend on their distance and size.
In this way, the smaller and more distant this planet is from Earth, the less we will feel its effects on our planet, and conversely, the larger and closer to Earth it is, the greater its effects will be.
With that said, let’s start with the closest planet to the Sun.
Mercury is the minor planet in the solar system and the closest to the Sun. Although it is not a giant planet, its closeness to the Sun makes it have significant gravity in the inner solar system. If Mercury suddenly disappeared from the solar system, it would impact the gravitational balance of the planets closest to it, especially Venus and Earth.
First, the orbit of Venus would change. Mercury’s gravitational influence is what keeps Venus’ orbit stable. Without Mercury’s presence, Venus could experience changes in its orbit, which would also change Earth’s orbit.
Another intriguing effect of the disappearance of Mercury is that the Sun would have a more significant gravitational influence on Venus. Mercury’s mass is a buffer that reduces the Sun’s gravitational influence on Venus. Without Mercury, Venus would be more exposed to the Sun’s gravity, which could affect the stability of its orbit, pulling it a little closer to the Sun and further from Earth.
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