The simulations show that the impact could have created molten ice and lopsided lumps of rock inside the planet. This could help explain Uranus’ tilted and off-centre magnetic field. Uranus is similar to the most common type of exoplanets – planets found outside of our solar system – and the researchers hope their findings will help explain how such planets evolved and understand more about their chemical composition.
Co-author Dr Luis Teodoro, of the BAER/NASA Ames Research Centre, said:
“All the evidence points to giant impacts being frequent during planet formation, and with this kind of research we are now gaining more insight into their effect on potentially habitable exoplanets.”
The findings were published in The Astrophysical Journal.