One planet can put an end to life on Earth: how scientists have proven the fragility of the solar system

Scientists conducted an experiment to address two notable gaps in our knowledge of the planets.

How did
Solar system?

The solar system formed about 4.5 billionyears ago from a dense cloud of interstellar gas and dust. At some point, it collapsed, possibly due to the shock wave of a nearby exploding star. This is how the solar nebula appeared - a rotating disk of stellar matter.

Gravity pulled more and morematerial to its center. Eventually, the pressure in the core became so great that the hydrogen atoms began to combine and form helium, releasing a huge amount of energy. And so the Sun appeared, having collected more than 99% of the available matter of the nebula. But it didn't end there.

The matter in the disk continued to stick together.Its fragments crashed into each other, forming larger and larger objects. Some of them have grown so much that gravity has turned them into spheres. So there were planets, ordinary and dwarf, as well as their moons. The rest of the matter was left out of work, becoming the asteroid belt, which consists of pieces of the early solar system. Other, smaller, remaining pieces became asteroids, comets, meteoroids, and small, irregular moons.

How did the planets of the solar system form?

Order and arrangement of planets and other bodies inour solar system is conditioned by how it formed. When the Sun first appeared and was much hotter than it is now, only rocky materials could withstand extreme temperatures. For this reason, the first four planets - Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars - are terrestrial planets. All of them are small, with a hard rocky surface.

Meanwhile, the materials we are accustomed toseen in the form of ice, liquid or gas, settled in the outer regions of the young solar system. Gravity pulled them together, and that's where the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn are, as well as the ice giants Uranus and Neptune. But what happens if another planet appears in the established system?

According to the experiment of the CalifornianRiverside University, a terrestrial planet hovering between Mars and Jupiter could push the Earth out of the solar system and destroy life on that planet. Why assume this? The lead author of the study, astrophysicist Stephen Cain, explained that he conducted the experiment to fill in notable gaps in planetary science.

What do we not know about the solar system?

The first question that has been tormenting scientists for a long time iswhy in the solar system there is such a large gap between the sizes of terrestrial and giant gas planets. For example, there is Earth - the largest terrestrial planet, and Neptune - the smallest gas giant, which is four times wider and 17 times more massive than Earth. And there are no intermediate objects between them. For example, in other star systems there are many planets with intermediate masses. Astronomers call them super-Earths.

The second question is in the location relative to the Sun between Mars and Jupiter. “Something in between is asking for something in between. It looks like a waste of space,” explains Steven Cain.

These gaps deprive science of important information aboutarchitecture of the solar system and the evolution of the Earth. To fill them in, Kane ran dynamic computer simulations of a planet between Mars and Jupiter with different mass ranges, and then observed the impact on the orbits of all the other planets.

What did the scientists find out?

Results published in the journal PlanetaryScience Journal, showed - it's good that this hypothetical planet between Mars and Jupiter does not exist. The consequences would be catastrophic for the solar system. According to the simulation, the fictional planet's gravity would destabilize it. And that's why.

"Despite the fact that many astronomers have dreamed of an extra planet in the solar system, it's a good thing we don't have one."

Jupiter is much larger than all the other planetstaken together; its mass is 318 times that of the earth, which is why its gravitational influence is so great. If a super-Earth appeared in the solar system and even slightly disturbed the gas giant, all the other planets would suffer greatly.

Depending on weight and exact locationsuper-Earths, her presence could eventually eject Mercury, Venus, and even Earth out of the solar system. It would also destabilize the orbits of Uranus and Neptune, throwing them into outer space. In addition, a super-Earth will change the shape of our planet's orbit, making it much more uninhabitable.

Why is it important?

Exploration matters to search for extraterrestriallife. Although Jupiter-like planets, gas giants far from their host stars, occur only in 10% of cases, their presence has been found to affect the stability of the orbits of nearby Earth-like planets.

In addition, the results of the study aremore respect for the subtle order that holds the planets together around the sun. “The solar system is tuned more precisely than I thought before. Everything works like an intricate clockwork. Add an extra detail, and everything will break, ”concludes the astrophysicist.

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