California – Could a super-Earth push Earth out of the solar system and wipe out all life on our planet? According to an experiment conducted by the University of California Riverside astrophysicist Stephen Kane, this is a strong possibility.
In our solar system, there is a gap between the terrestrial planets and the gas giants, as well as a gap between Mars and Jupiter. Kane performed dynamic computer simulations of a planet located between Mars and Jupiter with different masses in order to investigate these gaps and observed the effects on the orbits of all the other planets.
The results of the study, published in the Planetary Science Journal, show that if a super-Earth were present in our solar system it could push Mercury, Venus, and even Earth out of the system. In addition, the super-Earth could destabilize the orbits of Uranus and Neptune and hurl them into outer space, which would drastically change the shape of our planet’s orbit, making it much less habitable or even wiping out life altogether.
Although Jupiter-like planets (gas giants) are far from their stars and are only found about 10% of the time, their presence could decide whether neighboring Earth or super-Earths have stable orbits. This has implications for the ability of planets in other solar systems to harbor life.
Kane’s study reminds us of the delicate balance that keeps our solar system running like clockwork. “If we add more gears to the mix, everything breaks down,” Kane says.
It is important to keep in mind the complexity and interconnectedness of our solar system and how the presence of a single planet can have catastrophic consequences throughout the system. This study reminds us of the need to protect and preserve our planet and its unique and fragile ecosystem.