A second alignment plane of the solar system has been discovered

Comet orbits revealed something previously unknown – a mirror ecliptic inclined opposite of the planetary ecliptic.

From the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan

A study of comet motions indicates that the Solar System has a second alignment plane. Analytical investigation of the orbits of long-period comets shows that the aphelia of the comets, the point where they are farthest from the Sun, tend to fall close to either the well-known ecliptic plane where the planets reside or a newly discovered “empty ecliptic.” This has important implications for models of how comets originally formed in the Solar System.

Artist’s impression of the distribution of long-period comets. The converging lines represent the paths of the comets. The ecliptic plane is shown in yellow and the empty ecliptic is shown in blue. The background grid represents the plane of the Galactic disk. (Credit: NAOJ)

In the Solar System, the planets and most other bodies move in roughly the same orbital plane, known as the ecliptic, but there are exceptions such as comets. Comets, especially long-period comets taking tens-of-thousands of years to complete each orbit, are not confined to the area near the ecliptic; they are seen coming and going in various directions.

Models of Solar System formation suggest that even long-period comets originally formed near the ecliptic and were later scattered into the orbits observed today through gravitational interactions, most notably with the gas giant planets. But even with planetary scattering, the comet’s aphelion, the point where it is farthest from the Sun, should remain near the ecliptic. Other, external forces are needed to explain the observed distribution. The Solar System does not exist in isolation; the gravitational field of the Milky Way Galaxy in which the Solar System resides also exerts a small but non-negligible influence. Arika Higuchi, an assistant professor at the University of Occupational and Environmental Health in Japan and previously a member of the NAOJ RISE Project, studied the effects of the Galactic gravity on long-period comets through analytical investigation of the equations governing orbital motion.

She showed that when the Galactic gravity is taken into account, the aphelia of long-period comets tend to collect around two planes. First the well-known ecliptic, but also a second “empty ecliptic.” The ecliptic is inclined with respect to the disk of the Milky Way by about 60 degrees. The empty ecliptic is also inclined by 60 degrees, but in the opposite direction. Higuchi calls this the “empty ecliptic” based on mathematical nomenclature and because initially it contains no objects, only later being populated with scattered comets.

Higuchi confirmed her predictions by cross-checking with numerical computations carried out in part on the PC Cluster at the Center for Computational Astrophysics of NAOJ. Comparing the analytical and computational results to the data for long-period comets listed in NASA’s JPL Small Body Database showed that the distribution has two peaks, near the ecliptic and empty ecliptic as predicted. This is a strong indication that the formation models are correct and long-period comets formed on the ecliptic. However, Higuchi cautions,

“The sharp peaks are not exactly at the ecliptic or empty ecliptic planes, but near them. An investigation of the distribution of observed small bodies has to include many factors. Detailed examination of the distribution of long-period comets will be our future work. The all-sky survey project known as the Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) will provide valuable information for this study.”

These results appeared as Arika Higuchi, “Anisotropy of Long-period Comets Explained by Their Formation Process” published online by the Astronomical Journal on August 26, 2020.

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September 29, 2020 6:24 pm

Isn’t science wonderful..

…. how it is NEVER “settled” 😉

J Mac
September 29, 2020 7:11 pm

The ’empty ecliptic’? Perhaps the cometary ecliptic….

Esther Cook
September 29, 2020 7:38 pm

I thought this was discovered years ago with 4 planetoids in the other ecliptic, and maybe a brown dwarf sun.

Joel O'Bryan
September 29, 2020 7:50 pm

Simply a result of higher ordered chaos theory of nonlinear systems.
The empty ecliptic is a chaotic attractor. It’s weaker than the primary attracter which is the planetary ecliptic. Comets with appropriate orbital parameters can transition from one attractor to another. But like all chaotic systems, the transition of a given comet from one attractor to the other is not deterministic a priori. There may be even higher ordered, lesser occupied “empty ecliptics”, i.e. attractors in this system. Finding evidence of those higher ordered, these occupied attrator ecliptics will be tough, but not impossible.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
September 29, 2020 8:19 pm

In terms of mass distribution, these mirror ecliptics (attractors) might be partitioned as:
1º >>> 2º >> 3º > 4º …

So finding/acquiring hard astrometric evidence of objects in higher ordered ecliptics (3º +) gets exponentially more difficult.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
September 29, 2020 8:37 pm

As my thoughts turn on this subject, I see… as I read this statement:

“The ecliptic is inclined with respect to the disk of the Milky Way by about 60 degrees. The empty ecliptic is also inclined by 60 degrees, but in the opposite direction. “

Higher ordered empty ecliptics in our solar system would be the expected result as our galaxy is not easily modeled as a single gravitational center for our system located in a small arm offshoot of a much larger arm of the Milk Way galaxy. The multiple, much weaker, gravitational tensors would point to multiple spots in the 3D space around us in our galaxy. The primary tensor for the main ecliptic here not just to Sgr A* but also to closer local clusters of highly massive star forming regions and clusters in the millions of “nearby” arms as gravitational attractors to form these higher ordered mirror ecliptics. At -60º is the other other gravity tensors.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
September 30, 2020 7:50 am

“Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.”

John Tillman
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
September 30, 2020 11:08 am

“Tenser”, said the tensor.

Curious George
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
September 30, 2020 7:56 am

It is an interesting exercise in modeling. To an untrained eye, observational data in Figure 7
don’t show any clustering around the hypothetical “empty ecliptic”.

September 29, 2020 7:56 pm

It is slightly incorrect to say that the planets revolve in the ‘ecliptic plane’. Strictly speaking, the ecliptic is the Earth’s orbit. The ‘main’ plane of the planets are determined by the giant planets and is known as the ‘invariable plane’. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invariable_plane

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  Leif Svalgaard
September 29, 2020 8:12 pm

Thank you Leif. Learn something every day at WUWT.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Leif Svalgaard
September 29, 2020 8:45 pm

I’m about to go out onto my patio with a chilled adult beverage and contemplate the ‘invariable plane’ of the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn, with Mars rising in the east. I’ll and try to put this chaotic orbital subject and the chaos of tonight’s ‘presidential debate’ in the perspective of an EtOH haze.
– Cheers from Tucson.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
September 30, 2020 7:57 am

One chaotic attractor, one lesser attractor all interacting in a non deterministic system.

Expect a chaotic, non-deterministic election result.

graham dunton
September 29, 2020 8:55 pm

This science, this a scientific study, therefor a true perspective of that advancing evolution, taking place every minute of every day.
Not some potted version, created by the UN -IPCC, locked into a time capsule, before, the I phone was even invented

Jim G
September 29, 2020 9:37 pm

Given that there are fewer objects along this ecliptic to reflect sunlight;
Calling it the “empty ecliptic” is a kinder way of saying that its just not that bright.

September 29, 2020 9:51 pm

Planet Nine did it.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Glenn
September 29, 2020 10:20 pm

Then there are always the Planet Seven school yard jokes.
‘7 of 9’ was always my favorite. Another inside joke.

Jim G
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
September 30, 2020 3:52 am

Why are the planets afraid of Uranus?

‘Cause planet 7 ate 9.

Reply to  Glenn
September 29, 2020 10:46 pm

I thought it was Plan 9, from, ya know, Outer Space!

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
September 29, 2020 11:44 pm

Plan 9, by far the Worst sci-fi movie…. ever.
Most Jr High School drama skits are better than that movie.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
September 30, 2020 12:50 am

It’s so bad its a cult classic.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
September 30, 2020 4:17 am

After watching a portion of ‘Galaxina’ recently, I’d have to say there is strong competition for “Worst sci-fi movie”.

Magne O
September 29, 2020 10:08 pm

As with CO2, there is the possibility that they interpret the observations wrong based on an incorrect paradigm. An alternative theory; https://www.electricuniverse.info/ . This “plasma stuff” may have implications for climate.


September 29, 2020 10:17 pm

I would love to see a diagram or video demonstrating how comets migrate from the ecliptic to the empty ecliptic. What forces compel them to align that way?

Reply to  JMR
September 29, 2020 11:18 pm

What forces compel them to align that way?
Probably the gravity of the Milky Way.

September 30, 2020 4:33 am

“a mirror ecliptic inclined opposite of the planetary ecliptic.”

“Models of Solar System formation suggest”

More model programs consisting of grand self satisfaction assumptions where the program operators can claim omniscient conclusions based primarily upon ignorance and presumption…

My thoughts are that during the next 10 billion or so years the Milky Way Galaxy will form a new ecliptic plane within the Andromeda Galaxy.
Shortly afterwards, in galactic time, M33 the Triangulum Galaxy will participate with the end result of a lightly populated new ecliptic plane.

Not that current species of humans will observe such events.

Reply to  ATheoK
September 30, 2020 11:30 am

At least this case appears to be one of updating models to match observational data.

September 30, 2020 4:36 am

Just last month again planet 9 :
and references therein…

That sets the cat amongst the comet pigeons .

Reply to  bonbon
September 30, 2020 5:24 am

“More specifically, it introduces the idea that Planet 9 and the rest of these bodies may be primordial black holes (PBHs).”

Just because blackholes may be invisible when quiescent, they are quite evident when absorbing new material.
Events that should be observable as a blackhole orbiting in the Keiper outer reaches of the Solar System encounters dust, particles and larger debris.

Robert W. Turner
Reply to  ATheoK
September 30, 2020 7:28 am

“Their paper, … hypothesizes that … an excess in microlensing events observed in the 5-year Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE) dataset … introduces the idea that Planet 9 and the rest of these bodies may be primordial black holes (PBHs).”

This type of observation?

Reply to  Robert W. Turner
October 2, 2020 3:03 am

A) I am specific when I refer to emissions caused by black holes capturing material. Lensing is not emissions.

B) “Their paper, … hypothesizes”; one could easily substitute fantasize without changing facts or meaning.

C) I was puzzled by the lack of information about “excess in microlensing events observed”. Where it appears the researchers arrived at some “5-year Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE) dataset” average they consider significant.

Five years? For studying Kuiper Belt objects where orbits are incredibly large and essentially invisible to Earth?
• Can the authors specifically identify the orbits of objects causing “Optical Gravitational Lensing?
• Can the authors prove the objects causing the lensing used for their purposes were actually within the Kuiper Belt?

Reply to  ATheoK
September 30, 2020 7:54 am

September 30, 2020 at 5:24 am

A simple question;

“what a black hole can not do?”


Reply to  whiten
October 2, 2020 3:04 am

Why would I care?

Cheers back.

Dave Miller
September 30, 2020 10:25 am


Does this answer whether the universe is right or left handed? Maybe that’s already established by electron spin behavior.

I’m recalling with pleasure Feynman’s “The Character of Physical Law” lectures.

October 1, 2020 2:05 pm

Billions of years.

October 1, 2020 2:23 pm

Chaos, or design?

mike macray
Reply to  bailintheboat
October 2, 2020 3:23 pm

..Chaos or design..

What’s the difference ? One we understand, the other not yet..?

October 1, 2020 5:11 pm

Questions come to mind. Late Heavy Bombardment, None of the other observable planet system orbits resemble ours, universe made up of 74% mysterious dark energy- anti-gravity.

mike macray
October 2, 2020 3:24 pm

..Chaos or design..

What’s the difference ? One we understand, the other not yet..?

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