Science News

Jupiter Destroyed Super-Earths In Shaping Our Solar System, Study Suggests


Research conducted by astronomers Gregory Laughlin and Konstantin Batygin suggests that our solar system’s lack of super-Earths, planets smaller than Neptune but larger than Earth, may be attributed to Jupiter and Saturn.

In the study, which was published earlier this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the two astronomers behind the study suggest Jupiter traveled significantly closer to the Sun than it is presently, some 140 miles from it before it reversed its course and found itself in its present orbit roughly 483 million miles from the Sun – which the researchers attribute to gravitational interactions.

The research also proposes that the planet Saturn once traveled closer to the Sun, however, this notion, called the “Grand Tack scenario” was first developed in part by a research group back in 2011 and is the to some degree the basis for this more recent study in which researchers examined the potential impacts the two planets might have had in shaping our solar system through the forces exerted in their migration.

Researchers believe that the migration of the two planets may explain why our inner solar system is missing the super-Earths astronomers have seen in what Laughlin with the University of California Santa Cruz was quoted by Discovery News as having referred to in a report as “the default mode of planet formation” which leads “to configurations that are totally unlike our own solar system”.

In our solar system planets are pretty widely spread out and there’s literally nothing inside of Mercury’s orbit […] The fact that the default mode of planet formation … is leading to configurations that are totally unlike our own solar system is something I found really curious. The main feature of our solar system is that the inner part is just missing […] Anytime a theory says ‘Well this happened and then this happened,’ you need to be naturally suspicious. I think that is completely, absolutely valid and the right standpoint to take

The study’s findings suggest that the destructive clearing of the inner solar system by the wrecking ball that was Jupiter paved the way for a second-generation of planets, including ours, to form.

Earlier this year, scientists at NASA revealed that asteroid 2004 BL86 has its own small moon according to the first radar images taken of the asteroid.

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