Is it possible for Neptune and Pluto to collide given that their orbits cross?

A head-on collision, a near miss or not even possible? We find out if these two planets can actually collide

comments
The orbits of dwarf planet Pluto and ice giant Neptune cross. Image Credit: NASA

The orbits of dwarf planet Pluto and ice giant Neptune cross. Image Credit: NASA

Asked by James Rosato

It is true that the orbits of Neptune and Pluto cross, with the two objects swapping positions in the Solar System. Despite this, however, there is no chance of them colliding.

This is because the travel paths of Neptune and Pluto are actually tilted with respect to each other. This means there is never a point in which the pair get too close. Interestingly, due to Pluto’s size, collision may not be the only issue. Since it is so small in comparison to Neptune, there could be a risk that it would be influenced by the larger planet’s gravity, and the dwarf planet could be thrown out of its orbit on a new course.

Answered by Josh Barker from the National Space Centre

Got a question for us? Send it into questions@spaceanswers.com and you could see it featured in All About Space – available every month for just £3.99. Alternatively you can subscribe here for a fraction of the price!

Tags: , , , , , , ,