How Jupiter could make Earth even more habitable


In his famous physics undergraduate course, the Nobel Prize in Physics Richard Feynman showed from the first year how it was possible, with means of elementary numerical calculation already in simple computers from the early 1960s, to describe and predict the movements of material N. points that model planets that move under the action of universal attraction. This is usually what is called a many-body problem which is known to be very difficult to solve analytically, whether with planets, stars in a galaxy, or electron gas in a solid… In fact, there a whole theory largely constituted initially. for the work of Lagrange, Laplace, Gauss but also Hamilton, Siméon Denis Poisson and Sophus Lie (all mathematicians) from the 18th to the 19th century, which allows to calculate analytically and numerically up to a given moment the movements of at least three bodies, not punctual, in celestial mechanics. The modern forms of this theory, with corrections from Einstein’s theory of gravitation and which introduces the so-called non-Newtonian terms into the equations, are used to understand in particular the formation and evolution of the Solar System but also exoplanetary systems. an idea of ​​all these theories developed for more than two centuries with such well-known works as those of Goldstein (a great classic of mechanics giving tools to understand quantum and relativistic mechanics as an advantage) and Fitzpatrick. enabled not only Leverrier to discover Neptune through its influence on the movements of Uranus, but also to Milutin Milankovitch, a Serbian mathematician, geophysicist, astronomer and climatologist, to discover the origin of the glacial cycles to which the quaternary geological archives of our Blue Planet What are Milankovitch cycles? This video explains it to us. © The Official Sorcerer’s SpiritFrom Milankovitch to exobiology We know from Kepler that the orbits of the planets of the Solar System are more or less eccentric ellipses, sometimes very close to a circle or on the contrary very elongated as in the case of other bodies celestial bodies in periodic orbits, some comets. In fact, there are several parameters that are used to characterize the movements of the Earth, not only the values ​​of the semi-major axis and the eccentricity of the Earth’s orbit but also the inclination of its axis with respect to its orbital plane. around the Sun. These parameters play with the insolation of the Earth’s surface, the energy it receives from the Sun and therefore, ultimately, with the existence of the seasons and, as we said, the glacial cycles (see the previous video). Milutin Milankovitch showed that these are due initially to periodic changes in the eccentricity of the Earth’s orbit and the obliquity of its axis of rotation, and showed that they are a consequence of the gravitational attraction of the other planets of the Solar System, in particular Jupiter. and Saturn, due to its great mass, but also Venus or Mars due to its proximity. Since eccentricity and obliquity govern the insolation and seasons on Earth, these modifications alter the climate and influence the habitability of the Earth, that is, its ability to hold liquid water over the long term, the its surface We know that the habitability issue. In fact, it is a complex issue because it is also necessary to take into account the existence of an atmosphere capable of creating a greenhouse effect, which can also make a planet a priori too cold because in the end too far from its sun, welcoming for in life. , increasing its average temperature or, on the contrary, transforming it into a Venusian hell of the Earth or certain exoplanets, it is potentially useful to study the influence of gravitational perturbations on the orbital and rotation parameters of the Earth or other exoplanets to clarify the past, present or future habitability of these The future of the Solar System? A group of American and Australian astronomers have revisited these questions by making complex many-body calculations and taking into account general relativity in which they have varied the eccentricity of Jupiter’s orbit but not the value of its semi-major axis, which gives an estimate of the distance from Jupiter to the Sun. As they explain in a paper published in the Astronomical Journal and available for free on arXiv, these researchers found that this, in turn, would induce large changes in the shape of Earth’s orbit. “If Jupiter’s position stayed the same, but the shape of its orbit changed, that could increase the habitability of this planet.” California In the press release of this University, it specifies that “many are convinced that the Earth is the embodiment of a habitable planet and that any change in the orbit of Jupiter, being the massive planet that it is, could only be bad for the Earth. The researchers’ new calculations show that the eccentricity of Earth’s orbit would change so that it would be slightly warmer on average, and the polar regions would have correspondingly warmer blankets. less important glaciers, which would therefore have a little more heat. , according to them, increases the habitability of our blue Planet. On the other hand, if, in addition to a more eccentric orbit, Jupiter had a shorter semi-major axis, then it would be the Earth that would change, that is, the inclination. of its axis of rotation with respect to that of its orbital plane and this would result in a greater inclination and larger regions that would be covered in ice All these conclusions would potentially also apply to another exoplanet system with an exo-Earth. Let’s also remember that our Solar System is subject to a certain chaotic instability, so the scenario of the researchers could perhaps become the reality of tomorrow.
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