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Planet cannibalism is common, says cosmic ‘twin study’

By Yuan-Sen Ting, Associate Professor, Astrophysics, Australian National University
Fan Liu, Research Fellow, School of Physics and Astronomy, Monash University
How stable are planetary systems? Will Earth and its seven siblings always continue in their steady celestial paths, or might we one day be randomly ejected from our cosmic home?

Physicists understand the rules that govern the orbits of two celestial bodies, but as soon as a third is added (let alone a fourth, fifth, or hundredth) the dynamics become far more complex. Unpredictable instabilities arise, in which an object may be randomly ejected into space or fall into its host star.

The so-called “three-body problem” has troubled scientists for centuries (and more recently…The Conversation

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