General Question

Yellowdog's avatar

Is there any way to determine if the sun and the trajectory of planets was tilted at a different orientation in ages past?

Asked by Yellowdog (12093points) January 12th, 2020

If the sun, and the plane on which the planets orbit, was at a different tilt in some earlier time in the solar system’s history, we’d have had a different night sky orientation and different north star.

If this was ever the case, would there be any evidence for it?

I do not believe, nor have heard, this to be the case. Its more a science fiction idea in my mind. But how would we determine if it were the case?

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10 Answers

stanleybmanly's avatar

It is well established that the plane of the earth’s rotation is by no means fixed. The tug of the planets along with the wobble from precession and nutation have switched the, North Star to Polaris within the memory of human astronomers.

Patty_Melt's avatar

I just saw a doc on PBS that presented things learned from various space probes over the decades, including Russian probes to Venus.
Mercury was not always the closest planet to the sun.
Somehow Its orbit was drastically changed. They know this by elements found on its surface.
I’m unaware of any evidence of other planets being redirected.

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Call_Me_Jay's avatar

Old sundials are indicators of the historic positions of the Earth and Sun.

ragingloli's avatar

You plot the changes documented in the recorded data, then extrapolate backwards.

elbanditoroso's avatar

The only ways to do this and get an unequivocal confirmation:

1) Be several hundred million light years away with your telescope equivalents trained on the Earth’s solar system.

2) Live for several million years and watch how the changes occur.

Yes, you can extrapolate that earth used to be somewhere else and so forth, and you can calculate orbits, but that’s secondary confirmation. My approach is empirical.

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Pinguidchance's avatar

Invariable Plane

Most of the major bodies of the Solar System orbit the Sun in nearly the same plane. This is likely due to the way in which the Solar System formed from a protoplanetary disk. Probably the closest current representation of the disk is known as the invariable plane of the Solar System. Earth’s orbit, and hence, the ecliptic, is inclined a little more than 1° to the invariable plane, Jupiter’s orbit is within a little more than ​1⁄2° of it, and the other major planets are all within about 6°. Because of this, most Solar System bodies appear very close to the ecliptic in the sky.

The invariable plane is defined by the angular momentum of the entire Solar System, essentially the vector sum of all of the orbital and rotational angular momenta of all the bodies of the system; more than 60% of the total comes from the orbit of Jupiter.[18] That sum requires precise knowledge of every object in the system, making it a somewhat uncertain value. Because of the uncertainty regarding the exact location of the invariable plane, and because the ecliptic is well defined by the apparent motion of the Sun, the ecliptic is used as the reference plane of the Solar System both for precision and convenience. The only drawback of using the ecliptic instead of the invariable plane is that over geologic time scales, it will move against fixed reference points in the sky’s distant background

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