What causes orbits to be inclined?

In summary: The planets would have to line up in just the right way and have just the right mass.In summary, the planets in a solar system form from a rotating gaseous cloud, and collisions can knock objects out of the plane of the ecliptic.
  • #1
Dreksler
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TL;DR Summary
Or what are the characteristics that generally predict inclined orbits?
I want to know what are generally the characteristics that can predict or things that could cause the orbit of an object to deviate from zero degrees relative to the equatorial plane of the object that it is orbiting?
 
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  • #2
To start with, at the time the solar system is formed, it is one cloud with a net rotational momentum and for a few reasons tends to coalesce into a disc. So that's the starting point of your expectation. But nothing is perfect, and the planets interact most notably with each other, which causes them to move from perfect alignment. But not much; all of the [currently defined] planets are within single digit inclinations of each other.
 
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  • #3
russ_watters said:
single digit inclinations
I guess you mean single digits of degrees (from the ecliptic plane?).
 
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  • #4
Keith_McClary said:
I guess you mean single digits of degrees (from the ecliptic plane?).
Yep, skipped a key word.
 
  • #5
Dreksler said:
...deviate from zero degrees relative to the equatorial plane of the object that it is orbiting?
So, to tease this apart a little:

Are you thinking about how planets might have aligned in the plane of their parent star? Or are you thinking more about how moons might have aligned in the rotational planes of their parent planet? (not to mention comets and asteroids).

Because I think there's some nuances in how the initial conditions evolve to the observed conditions.

Example:
Planets evolve from a vaguely spherical, rotating gaseous cloud of a proto-solar system on a broadly similar timeline as the sun itself coalesces.

But moons are not necessarily analogous - they do not likewise evolve from a vaguely rotating spherical gaseous cloud of a proto-planetoid, coalescing at the same time.

There's a lot of moons that get their orbits long after their parent planets have coalesced. Some captures, some impact ejections, etc. These have no analogue for planets.

Apples and oranges, you see.
 
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  • #6
The original nebula, assuming it contains all the material of a future solar system, will be very much three dimensional. It will have a certain net angular momentum., which will remain constant. There will be an axis for this angular momentum. As gravity draws the material together, momentum will always be conserved but the kinetic energy won't be. That will cause objects to form and grow. The central star will get most of the material but there will also be planets and dust clouds. the mass will be near a single plane but only near. Any collisions can have the effect of knocking the objects out of the plane. The present arrangement of the solar system is fairly stable (in our time scale) but, if two large planets were to collide, the results could be way outside the plane of the ecliptic. This would require more than just the two colliding planets.
 
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Related to What causes orbits to be inclined?

1. What is an inclined orbit?

An inclined orbit is a type of orbit in which the path of an object around another object is tilted or angled relative to the equatorial plane of the object being orbited. This means that the object does not orbit around the equator, but rather at an angle.

2. What causes orbits to be inclined?

Orbits can become inclined due to the gravitational influence of other objects in the solar system. For example, if a planet or moon passes close to another object, its gravitational pull can cause the orbit of that object to become inclined. Additionally, collisions or other disturbances can also cause orbits to become inclined.

3. How does inclination affect an orbit?

Inclination can affect the shape and stability of an orbit. A higher inclination can result in a more elongated or elliptical orbit, while a lower inclination can result in a more circular orbit. Inclination can also affect the amount of time it takes for an object to complete one orbit around another object.

4. Can orbits change from being inclined to being more circular?

Yes, orbits can change over time due to various factors such as gravitational interactions with other objects or atmospheric drag. Over time, an inclined orbit may become more circular, or vice versa, depending on the forces acting on the object.

5. Are all orbits inclined?

No, not all orbits are inclined. In fact, most of the planets in our solar system have relatively low inclinations, meaning their orbits are close to being circular. However, there are some objects, such as comets, that have highly inclined orbits due to their interactions with other objects in the solar system.

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