All astronomy buffs were eagerly waiting for a special, once-in-two-decade event called the ‘Conjecture’ on December 21, 2020. However, the Conjecture of 2020 was unique since it was for the first time in 800 years that the two gas giants – Jupiter and Saturn – were this close and that too, at night. Events like the ‘Conjecture’ compel the thinkers to scratch their brains and wonder what if the two planets collide.
Dr. Alastair Gunn, an astrophysicist at the University of Manchester, decodes the planetary imagination and shares his insights in an article for BBC’s Science Focus. As Dr. Gunn mentions, the collision is highly unlikely to occur based on today’s observation. However, it is possible that such a cosmic event might occur. The impact of the collision varies depending on the nature of the collision between the two gas planets.
A head-on collision is likely to result in an absolute amalgamation of two planets into one. The collision would result in minimum to zero loss of material from both the solid cores as well as their gas envelopes.Oblique Collisions (At an angle)
Oblique collisions can result in varied results since it depends on the inclination of the angle. If the collision happens at an average angle inclination, the two giants will lose a substantial fraction of their gas envelopes. But, total destruction or complete merger of the two planetary bodies is unlikely.
The results at high-speed collisions are predictable to an extent. If the collision happens head-on, it is given that both planets will destroy each other, with all their gas envelopes destroyed and the debris of their solid cores flung into the vacuum of the cosmos. However, if the high-speed collision happens at an angle, there is a 50-50 chance of survival of the two planets. But in both cases, the planets will lose a massive portion of their gaseous entities. In another scenario, both planets can just swift across each other at a highly oblique angle and only result in a change in shape and not in the mass or composition of the planet.