Earth Could Be Even More Habitable. We’d Just Need to Shift Jupiter’s Orbit

Posted: September 12, 2022 by oldbrew in research, solar system dynamics
Tags: , ,

Jupiter [image credit: NASA]


Even less feasible than permanently changing Earth’s climate with tiny amounts of trace gases, but theorists have ideas to test.
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We have exactly one world, in all the Universe, that we know for a fact to be hospitable to life: ours, says Science Alert.

So when we’re looking for habitable planets in other planetary systems, beyond our own corner of the galaxy, we often use Earth as the perfect template.

But a new study has revealed Earth isn’t as habitable as it could be. In fact, it could be even more livable, if Jupiter’s orbit shifted slightly.

It’s an important study because there are many moving parts and ingredients in the Solar System, and figuring out which ones contribute to Earth’s habitability is extremely tricky.

It could also help us better understand what makes a habitable world habitable.

“If Jupiter’s position remained the same, but the shape of its orbit changed, it could actually increase this planet’s habitability,” says planetary scientist Pam Vervoort of the University of California, Riverside.

“Many are convinced that Earth is the epitome of a habitable planet and that any change in Jupiter’s orbit, being the massive planet it is, could only be bad for Earth. We show that both assumptions are wrong.”

The results also have implications for the search for habitable worlds outside the Solar System, by providing a new set of parameters by which potential habitability can be assessed.

Although we don’t currently have any tools that can conclusively gauge the habitability of an exoplanet – planets that orbit stars outside our Solar System – scientists have been collecting a population of worlds at which we ought to take a closer look, based on several characteristics.

The first is where the exoplanet is in relation to its host star – it needs to be at a distance not so close that any surface liquid water would evaporate, nor so distant that the water would freeze.

The second is the size and mass of the exoplanet – is it likely to be rocky, like Earth, Venus, or Mars? Or gassy, like Jupiter, Saturn, or Uranus?

Increasingly, it has seemed that a Jupiter-like gas giant in the same system might be a good indicator for habitability. But there seem to be some caveats.

In 2019, the international team of researchers published a study in which they showed, based on simulations, that altering the orbit of Jupiter could very quickly make the entire Solar System unstable.

Now more simulations have shown that the opposite can be true, which will help narrow down the range of gas giant orbits that help or hinder habitability.

The study was based on the eccentricity of Jupiter’s orbit – the degree to which that orbit is elongated and elliptical.

Currently, Jupiter has only a very slightly elliptical orbit; it’s almost circular.

Full article here.
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Study: System Architecture and Planetary Obliquity: Implications for Long-term Habitability (2022)

Comments
  1. […] Earth Could Be Even More Habitable. We’d Just Need to Shift Jupiter’s Orbit | Tallbloke’s … […]

  2. Gamecock says:

    ‘But a new study has revealed Earth isn’t as habitable as it could be. In fact, it could be even more livable, if Jupiter’s orbit shifted slightly.’

    Wut? There is no comparative for livable.

    ‘It’s an important study because there are many moving parts and ingredients in the Solar System, and figuring out which ones contribute to Earth’s habitability is extremely tricky.’

    Wut? It’s important because it’s tricky?

    ‘It could also help us better understand what makes a habitable world habitable.’

    Uhh . . . I think we know that.

  3. Peter Norman says:

    If only the computer model had been around 4 and a half billion years ago, life could have been so much better!

  4. jb says:

    The force that governs the orbits of all the planets is yet to be characterized. Pari Spolter made a good stab at it in her book, The Gravitational Force of the Sun. What she did not realize in the production of that work is that the Sun’s gravitational force is indexed to its position in the Galactic arm. The Sun is not the origin of gravitational force, but more like a gateway, setting up conditions for the solar system bodies. Since the destruction of Tiamat in the asteroid orbit (according to Babylonian documents), the earth’s climate has flattened out and been more stable than ever before. Nobody is going to monkey with those conditions. The force governing their orbits is more powerful than we have ability to compensate for. And if we did, there would be major repercussions throughout the solar system. Celestial bodies are not floating around in space like pinballs, operating under Newton’s laws. They are where they are, and move the way they do due to forces we have yet to profile.

  5. Someone who does not even understand what caused our ice ages to start or end is telling us how we can help or hurt out climate by changing Jupiter’s orbit is a total crackpot. We have places that are frozen all the time and we have places that are too hot and dry for us to live without bringing in food and water.
    We have every climate in between those extreme climates,

    Changing anything that is not understood would destroy much that is not known.

    Sounds like most of our western leaders, if the fix is subsidized and they can get richer and more powerful, they go for it.

  6. oldmanK says:

    Jupiter has been interfering with earth’s orbit and altering its habitability for millennia, and has even done it repeatedly in the last 6k years. But it has been the moon that dictated when Jupiter acts. We can see that through history, if we cut through the mountains of obfuscation. And models/simulations don’t do history.

  7. oldbrew says:

    From the linked study:
    With an ensemble of n-body simulations and obliquity models of hypothetical planetary systems, we demonstrate that the amplitude and period of the eccentricity, obliquity, and precession cycles of an Earth-like planet are sensitive to the orbital characteristics of a giant companion planet.

    Earth 1 AU from the Sun, Jupiter 5.2 AU. Stretching the definition of ‘companion’ perhaps.
    . . .
    From Science Daily’s article:
    “It’s important to understand the impact that Jupiter has had on Earth’s climate through time, how its effect on our orbit has changed us in the past, and how it might change us once again in the future.”

    Gribbin had a go at that but it didn’t work out too well…

    The Jupiter Effect is a 1974 book by John Gribbin and Stephen Plagemann, in which the authors predicted that an alignment of the planets of the Solar System would create a number of catastrophes, including a great earthquake on the San Andreas Fault, on March 10, 1982.[1][2][3] The book became a best-seller.[4] The predicted catastrophes did not occur.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Jupiter_Effect
    . . .
    ‘The predicted catastrophes did not occur’ — which should have been the prediction 🙄

  8. oldmanK says:

    Apparently from same team: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/1538-3881/ab5365

    From conclusion “Simultaneously, the amplitude of the Earth’s orbital cycles varied as the giant planet was moved through the solar system, with some stable solar system variants featuring oscillations in Earth’s orbital inclination that approached, or even exceeded, ten degrees.”

    Is this now a change of view?

  9. Hasbeen says:

    Now that really would be climate change!

  10. Saighdear says:

    Could could could, …. but it isn’t. Could have done a lot of things. Would have done a lot of things better and Should have done a lot things. and here we are. Can’t see the wood for the threes. Try this and tri that. If’s n but the, Might is overriding.

  11. oldmanK says:

    Something Saighdear said above: “Can’t see the wood for the t(h)rees”. Seems it has been that, and with blinkers on. (the blinkers of human vanity, and an innate fear of the great unknown possible)
    Then we saw Plato as telling tall stories, Herodotus fathering lies, biblical Joshua as doing a Houdini or a David Cooperfield; but could not see that underneath it all there was science as precise as can be, and that the devil of it all was in the detail.

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