Scientists might have found a way to make Earth an even better place to live – move Jupiter.
A rather optimistic new study has found a shift in Jupiter’s orbit could actually make our planet more hospitable to life by warming parts of it.
“If Jupiter’s position remained the same, but the shape of its orbit changed, it could actually increase this planet’s habitability,” said Pam Vervoort, planetary scientist at the University of California, Riverside (UCR).
“Many are convinced that Earth is the epitome of a habitable planet and that any change in Jupiter’s orbit, being the massive planet it is, could only be bad for Earth. We show that both assumptions are wrong.”
The thinking is, lifeforms tend to like temperatures between 0C and 100C; if more of the Earth was above 0C, there would be more places for things to live. Perhaps not comfortably, but live nonetheless.
A shift in Jupiter’s path around the sun could make Earth’s orbit slightly more oval, closer at times, increasing temperatures in parts currently too cold for most life to exist.
They’re not really suggesting we try and move the biggest planet – not yet anyway. While it might make more of the planet habitable, that’s for life in general – not specifically humans, most of whom wouldn’t enjoy the wild temperature fluctuations it might bring.
But they say knowing how large outer planets affect the orbits of planets inside other stars’ habitable zones could assist in the hunt for alien life. It could also help us understand future climate shifts.
“It’s important to understand the impact that Jupiter has had on Earth’s climate through time, how its effect on our orbit has changed us in the past, and how it might change us once again in the future,” said UCR astrophysicist Stephen Kane.
Previous research has found global warming, while bad overall, could warm parts of the Earth such as Siberia to a point they become viable options for settlement.