March 29, 2023

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What would happen if our solar system got a super-Earth?

Simulations have revealed that our planet could be pushed deep into interstellar space, ending life on Earth.

Stephen Kane, an astrophysicist at the University of California, Riverside, studied a hypothetical extra Earth-like planet between Mars and Jupiter and studied its effects on the orbits of all the planets in our solar system.

Simulations found that adding a planet between Mars and Jupiter could disrupt its orbit and end life on Earth.

Although creating a new ambient world is fortunately unlikely, the findings have implications for efforts to search for life in other solar systems.

According to Professor Kane, the purpose of his experiment was to investigate two significant gaps in the formation of our solar system compared to others.

The first is the gap between the sizes of the terrestrial planets, the largest of which is Earth, and the gas giants, the smallest of which is Neptune, which is actually four times the size of Earth and 17 times our mass. the planet

The second gap is in place. For the Sun, there is no planet between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

Our solar system is somewhat unique in that it has life-supporting Earths, but no super-Earths.

Super-Earths are a class of planets that frequently orbit other stars. It is limited only by its mass, which ranges from 2 to 10 Earth masses.

While searching for other galaxies and exoplanets over the years, scientists have noticed that apart from our own solar system, super-Earths are relatively common.

Because there are no super-Earth representatives here, it is difficult for planetary scientists to understand these types of planets in other systems.

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Understanding the cause of each of the two gaps could provide important insights into the structure of our solar system and the evolution of Earth, the astrophysicist explained.

Accordingly, Professor Kane ran a series of dynamical computer simulations by adding a planet between Mars and Jupiter, looking at a range of different masses for an object and observing what kind of effects that would have on the orbits of the other planets.

The results would be catastrophic for the solar system – and for life on Earth. “This imaginary planet gives Jupiter enough impetus to disrupt everything else,” Professor Kane explained.

Jupiter is larger than all the other planets, with 318 times the mass of Earth, meaning its gravitational influence is profound.

Accordingly, even a small perturbation of Jupiter by the addition of a terrestrial planet would profoundly affect the orbits of all the other planets in the Solar System.

In fact, depending on its extreme mass and exact location, its presence could eventually push Mercury, Venus, Earth, Uranus, and Neptune out of the Solar System.

Even if it doesn’t take Earth into deep space, adding a super-Earth to the Solar System would certainly change its orbit, making our home at least hostile to life, if not downright inhospitable.

Professor Kane added: “Although many astronomers would love to have this extra planet, it’s better that we don’t have it.”

The astrophysicist says the only way for a planet to remain stable for relatively long periods of time is to make its mass smaller, at which point a small window opens between Mars and Jupiter.

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However, Professor Kane says that even small changes in its orbital path can make things worse. (Russia Today)