About the episode
There are two gaping holes in our solar system. The first discrepancy is between the size of Earth-like planets and gas giants. The largest terrestrial planet is Earth. The smallest gas giant is Neptune. If the size of the Earth was between a dime and a quarter, Neptunes would be a baseball, with a mass 17 times greater.
There is nothing between this room and this baseball, whereas in other star systems there are many planets of intermediate size. The so-called super-Earths.
The other hole is a location hole. If you look at the distance from the sun, there is a big gap between Mars and Jupiter, which could easily contain another planet. Waste of space, isn’t it? But what if this hole actually contained a planet?
That’s what a University of California researcher set out to find in computer models. He filled the hole with non-existent planets of different sizes and observed what happened to the solar system.
It soon turned out that it was a good thing that it was a simulation. Depending on the size and exact location of the fictional planet, this could result in the ejection of Mercury, Venus, and our own Earth from the solar system. The orbits of Uranus and Neptune were also disturbed enough to eject them into space. All of these actions follow the interaction of the planet with Jupiter. Even a small push against this gigantic gas giant causes chaos all around.
But even without being ejected from our solar system, a super-Earth there would affect Earth’s orbit, making our planet much less habitable, if not uninhabitable.
Not only are the results sufficient for a slightly disturbing thought experiment that shows just how fragile the balance of our solar system really is, but they also provide important insight into the possible presence of life on planets in other galaxies.
Read more about research here: The planet that could end life on Earth.
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