A new study has determined that we have a unique solar system that doesn’t resemble most of the other ones that astronomers have discovered to date, and the reason may be because of Jupiter.
Researcher published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences discussed the fact that many solar systems typically have larger “super-Earths” that are smaller than Neptune but bigger than our Earth, and are often quite close to the sun, but that doesn’t describe our solar system, according to a Forbes report.
The two astronomers who authored the report argue that Jupiter was probably much closer to the sun back in the early days of the solar system — just 140 million miles away, rather than 483 million miles like it is today, which meant at one point it was about as far from the sun as Mars is and only about 50 million miles further out than Earth.
Such a massive celestial body so close to where Earth currently is would have wreaked havoc on any super-Earths that were around during the early days of the Solar System by altering orbits and causing them to crash into the sun.
As a result, the terrestrial planets were formed mostly from debris, which would fit in with how scientists understand the solar system to have evolved.
It’s not the first time that scientists have proposed the idea that Jupiter — as well as Saturn — were once much closer to the sun. It was first proffered as a solution in 2001 to explain some gaps in astronomers’ understanding of the solar system’s evolution.
To back up this idea, the astronomers who penned this study ran computer simulations to examine what is known as the “Grand Tack scenario” to see what would have happened if a super-Earth had been formed near the sun.
This reality may be bad news for people hoping to find an Earth-like planet outside of our own solar system, as our situation may be a unique one difficult to find elsewhere.
The fact that we have two large gas giants in Jupiter and Saturn is unusual for a solar system. Typically, there is only one large gas giant. Our gas giants formed relatively early, and the gravitational actions between them caused them to move away from the sun and into orbits farther away, which then led to a series of collisions between smaller terrestrial planets that would have destroyed the super-Earth that our system would have developed.
As a result, there aren’t likely to be many Earth-like planets out there with solid surfaces and atmospheric pressures that are modest, scientists say.