The gas giant becomes a medium of chaos, ensuring that there is no life in its Earth-like neighbors around other stars.
A new series of studies has shown that in some planetary systems, gas giants tend to push smaller planets out of their orbits, wreaking havoc on the climate.
Jupiter is by far the largest planet in the solar system and plays an important protective role. Its massive gravitational field helps deflect comets and asteroids that might collide with Earth, creating a stable environment for life.
But giant planets elsewhere in the universe don’t necessarily protect life on their smaller rocky neighbors.
‘Surrounded by Giants: Stability of the Habitable Zone in the HD 141399 System” detailed in a new paper. astronomical journalexplains how the gravitational pull of a gas giant in a nearby star system could push neighboring Earth-like planets out of their “habitable zone.”
Understanding the behavior of gas giant planets using computer simulations
Unlike most other known solar systems, HD 141399’s four gas giant planets are further away from their star.
This makes it a good model to compare with our solar system, where Jupiter and Saturn are also relatively far from the sun.
“It’s as if the four Jupiters are acting like wrecking balls, throwing everything off,” said Stephen Cain, an astrophysicist at the University of California, Riverside and lead author of the paper. .
Kane ran multiple computer simulations to understand the effects of these four gas giants, taking into account data about the planets in this system.
He specifically wanted to examine the system’s habitable zone to see if Earth could remain in a stable orbit there.
Kane explained: “The answer is yes, but it’s highly unlikely. There are only a select few regions where the giant’s gravitational pull won’t knock the rocky planet out of its orbit and blow it out of the zone.”
How do planets within the habitable zone destroy the possibility of life?
While this paper shows that giant planets outside the habitable zone destroy the possibility of life, a second related paper shows that one large gas giant planet in the middle of the habitable zone shows how they can have similar effects.
It was also published in astronomy magazine, second paper is investigating a star system called GJ 357, located just 30 light-years from Earth.
“The diameter of the galaxy is estimated to be 100,000 light years, so this system is definitely in our neighborhood,” Kane said.
Previous research has revealed that a gas giant planet in this system, named GJ 357 d, exists in the system’s habitable zone and has a mass about six times that of Earth. However, the paper explains that the mass is probably much larger.
“GJ 357 d may have a mass equivalent to 10 Earths, meaning it is probably not Earth-like and therefore cannot support life,” Cain explained.
Later in the paper, Cain and his collaborator, UCR planetary science postdoctoral researcher Tara Fetterolf, argue that if the gas giant planet is much larger than previously thought, it could have an Earth-like presence in its habitable zone. This proves that it is certain that planets will no longer be able to exist. Next to it.
There are also a select few places in the system’s habitable zone where Earth could exist, but their orbits would be highly elliptical around the star.
“In other words, their orbits will create abnormal climates on those planets,” Caine said. “The paper suggests that when we find gas giant planets in the habitable zone, they automatically host life.” This is a warning not to think that you can do it.”
He concluded, “Our study gives us even more reason to be very grateful for our solar system’s particular planetary configuration.”
After all, the two papers show how rare it is to find suitable environments to harbor life elsewhere in the universe.