- If Jupiter’s orbit becomes more chaotic, it could push Earth’s semi-frozen regions warm, making these regions more habitable.
- Therefore, the tilt of the planet can have a significant impact on its habitable zones.
- New research on this relationship between Jupiter and Earth aims to help understand the long-term ability of other planets to support life.
Oh, Jupiter. If a gas giant only shifted its orbit a little, to become more erratic (read: elliptical), it could shift the shape of Earth’s orbit as well, causing parts of the blue planet to come closer to the sun. This in turn means areas covered with ice that are less habitable and the possibility of more habitable areas.
This was the focus of a new study published last week in Astronomical Journal From the University of California, Riverside team. By modeling data from our solar system as it is known today, scientists have created a theoretical system that slightly altered Jupiter’s orbit.
Pam Vervoort, an Earth and planetary scientist at UCR and lead author of the study, says in new version.
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This may stimulate scientists to become more detail-oriented in the study of distant exoplanets in the search for new habitable regions.
“Many are convinced that Earth is an example of a habitable planet and that any change in the orbit of Jupiter, being the massive planet, could be detrimental to the Earth,” Vervoort says. “We show that both assumptions are wrong.”
During orbit, the planet receives rays from its star – for Earth, this is the Sun. The magnitude of the rays received during orbit can lead to gentle seasonal shifts or dramatic uninhabitable temperature fluctuations, all of which depend on the orbital proximity of the rays.
“The first thing that people look for in their search for exoplanets is the habitable zone, the distance between a star and a planet to see if there is enough energy for liquid water on the planet’s surface,” Stephen Kane, an astrophysicist at the University of California, and co-author of the study, says. in the statement. “The presence of water on its surface is a very simple first measure, and it does not take into account the shape of the planet’s orbit, or the seasonal changes that the planet may experience.”
The authors wrote that in the search for life outside our solar system, attention should be focused on those planets that have the ability to maintain habitable conditions over the long periods of time necessary for the emergence and expansion of life.
These days, we’re pretty adept at measuring a planet’s orbit with current telescope technology, but the UCR teams say we also have to worry about the degree to which the planet is tilted toward or away from the star, which helps determine how much rays specific regions receive.
In studying Jupiter and Earth, not only would a small change in Jupiter’s orbit in one direction have a beneficial effect on parts of Earth, the team found that if Jupiter placed itself close to the Sun in its new orbit, it would cause a severe inertia. It leans on the Earth, making parts of our planet almost icy.
To see how small changes in Jupiter’s position and orbit lead to dramatic changes on Earth, researchers plan to develop methods to help them estimate factors beyond orbit — such as measuring the planet’s mass and determining its inclination.
“It’s important to understand Jupiter’s influence on Earth’s climate through time, how its influence has changed our orbit in the past, and how it might change us again in the future,” says Kane.
Tim Newcomb is a journalist based in the Pacific Northwest. Covers stadiums, sneakers, gear, infrastructure, and more for a variety of publications, including Popular Mechanics. His favorite interviews have included sit-down sessions with Roger Federer in Switzerland, Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles and Tinker Hatfield in Portland.
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