The solar system is unlikely to lose stability for the next 1,00,000 years, according to a new study. While outer space may be filled with mysterious and sometimes violent interstellar phenomena that could have an impact on the Earth and the solar system it resides in, the orbits of bodies in the solar system are unlikely to be affected for 100 millennia, according to mathematicians from the University of Sofia. Instead of looking at longer timelines spanning billions of years, the researchers covered a smaller scale, improving the reliability of their findings.
Researchers from the University of Sofia in Bulgaria have concluded in their study that the orbits of the bodies in the solar system will not vary much over the next 100 millennia. To reach the conclusion, mathematicians Angel Zhivkov and Ivaylo Tounchev developed a method to translate the orbital elements of the eight main planets — and Pluto — into 54 first-order ordinary differential equations.
The computer code was then fed into a desktop computer which processed it and performed calculations in 62,90,000 steps. Here each step accounted for about six days. “The configuration of the osculating ellipses on which the planets move around the Sun will remain stable at least 1,00,000 years in the sense that the semi-major axis of each planet varies within or less than one percent,” the researchers noted.
It means that the planets will continue to revolve around the sun while being in their orbit without much change for a long period of time.
The researchers provided analytical proof assisted by computer calculations to back their findings. Studies have been conducted using advanced computing earlier also to predict the future of our solar system, but usually covered longer timescales spanning billions of years, where the finer details are often missed out. Instead, Zhivkov and Tounchev covered a relatively smaller time scale which improves the reliability of their findings.
The mathematicians also took into account the accumulation of rounding-off errors, the accuracy of the computer calculations, and deviations related to possible uncertainty in the astronomical data.