A new study has found that a shift in Jupiter’s orbit could make Earth’s surface more suitable for life than it already is, RT reported.
When a planet has a perfectly circular orbit around its star, the distance between the planet and the star never changes. However, most planets have “eccentric” orbits around their stars, which means that the orbit is elliptical, and when the planet approaches its star, it receives more heat, which affects the climate.
Jupiter revolves around the sun in an elliptical orbit, and a simulation of alternative arrangements for our solar system, conducted by scientists at the University of California Riverside (UCR), indicates that when Jupiter’s orbit is more eccentric than it is now, or “eccentric” – it It also causes major changes in the orbit of our planet.
This change caused by the orbit of Jupiter – the largest planet in the solar system by far – could affect Earth’s ability to support life for the better.
“If Jupiter’s position remains the same, but the shape of its orbit changes, it may actually increase the habitability of this planet,” said study leader Pam Vervoort, a planetary and Earth scientist at the University of California Riverside. “Many are convinced that Earth is an example of a habitable planet and that any A change in Jupiter’s orbit, being a giant planet, could only be harmful to Earth. And we show that both assumptions are wrong.”
Planets with circular orbits maintain a constant distance from their star while more exotic – elliptical – orbits bring the planets closer and farther from their stars at different points in that orbit.
The proximity of the star determines how much radiation it receives and how its core is, which means that it affects the planet’s climate.
And if Jupiter’s orbit became more eccentric, the team found that Earth’s orbit would be pushed to become more eccentric as well. This means that sometimes the Earth will be closer to the sun than it really is.
As a result, some of the coldest parts of our planet will warm up to temperatures in the habitable range — between 32 and 212 degrees Fahrenheit (0 to 100 degrees Celsius) — for a variety of life on Earth.
The team believes their findings could help astronomers identify potentially habitable planets outside the solar system – exoplanets.
This is because the distance from a planet to its star and its variation determines how much radiation different parts of it receive, creating the seasons.
Currently, the search for habitability hinges on whether a planet lies within its star’s habitable zone – the region around the star that is the right temperature to allow liquid water to exist – but these findings could provide new research factors.
University of California astrophysicist Stephen Kane said: “The first thing people look for in search of 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. The presence of water on its surface is a measure The first is very simple, and does not take into account the shape of the planet’s orbit or the seasonal changes that the planet may experience.”
Other factors could influence the planet’s habitability, and the team also tested some of them. This includes the tilt of a planet, which affects the amount of radiation it receives from its star.
Scientists at the University of California Riverside found that if Jupiter were much closer to the sun than the current distance of about 461 million miles (742 million kilometres), it could cause a severe tilt on Earth. This will result in our planet getting less sunlight, which means large swaths of our planet will experience near-freezing temperatures.
While current telescopes are powerful enough to determine the central eccentricity of the orbits of exoplanets, they are not well equipped to measure the inclination of these worlds. This means that astronomers must work on methods that can help determine this.
The recent study suggests that searching for the orbits and motions of nearby gas giants can help infer this important factor in habitability.
“It is important to understand Jupiter’s impact on Earth’s climate over time, how it has changed our orbit in the past, and how it may change us again in the future,” Kane concluded.