New Mexico Supercomputing Challenge

Gravity's Effects on Planer Orbit Within a Solar System

Team: 92

School: Robertson High

Area of Science: Astrophysics


Interim: School Name: Robertson High school


Problem Definition:
As far as we know, there are no solar systems in which any of the planets are far off of a central plane of orbit. For instance, within our own solar system there is only one planet that is off of the central plane of orbit. Pluto, not a true planet but a dwarf planet. Pluto is 18° off of the orbital planes of the other planets. Why hasn't anyone seen one a system in which there are planets that are off the plane? Most sources say that this is because the planets were formed from the compression of a dust cloud surrounding a star in the system.

Problem Goal:
The goal of our project is to provide and prove an alternative theory as to why the planets are all aligned on a central plane of orbit instead of having a third dimension to the three dimensional plane.

Problem Hypothesis:
Our hypothesis is that the planets naturally align due to the Sun's, and planets' gravitational effects on their orbits.

Problem Solution:
We hope to prove/disprove our hypothesis through the creation of a model that will simulate gravity in the current system, and match current motion of our solar system, we will then add another planet into orbit. This planet will be orbiting 45° off the central orbital plane.

Progress to Date:
We have created a model in Java that can simulate extraterrestrial gravity. However, this model has not yet been proven to match the orbits of the current planets. We haven't found a source from which to find an up to date information about the locations in reference to the sun. Without this information we cannot compare the results of the model to real world data. We also cannot create an accurate model without knowing the planets different locations at any instant to start at.

Expected Results:
We hope that this planet will slowly, over the course of hundreds or thousands of years in the simulation, adjust its orbit to match that of the other planets. These results will either prove or disprove our hypothesis. First, we must check to see if our model matches the current planets so that our results are verified by the normal planetary movement. If the planet does not follow the pattern shown by other mathematical models for the current data then we will need to adjust our model and check all of our formulas. Once we have an accurate model we will insert an additional planet with an orbital 45° off of the original orbits. Then we will observe the simulation to see if it is adjusting to the other planets orbits.


Mentor: Mike Boyle

Team Members:
Jacob Ratzlaff
Victoria Gomez
Victoria Jaregui


Team Members:

  Victoria Gomez
  Jacob Ratzlaff
  Victoria Jauregui

Sponsoring Teacher: Mike Boyle

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