However, modeling showed that its appearance would threaten to destabilize the orbits of most neighboring planets, and the Earth would be ejected far from the Sun.
Today, when many planetary systems have been discovered in deep space, our solar system seems especially unusual.
It contains a group of compact rocky planets, such as Mars or Venus, and gas giants – ice Neptune, ringed Jupiter and others.
But the intermediate classes of planets widely distributed in other stars – super-Earths and mini-Neptunes – are clearly not enough in this picture.
Such worlds are several times larger than the Earth and are considered especially interesting, including from the point of view of potential habitability.
It would seem that there is a place suitable for such a planet – a vast void between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Now there is only the main belt of asteroids, the remains of a planet that failed to form.
Simulations by astronomers at the University of California, Riverside have shown what would happen to the solar system if there were another super-Earth planet between Jupiter and Mars. As it turned out, we were very lucky that she was not there.
Stephen Kane and his colleagues found that such a planet can only remain stable while in an orbit strictly equal to three astronomical units – the average radii of the Earth’s orbit.
Mars is located a little less than 1.5 astronomical units from the Sun, Jupiter – 5.2 astronomical units. A super-Earth found virtually anywhere else in that gap would be devastating to the entire solar system.
Scientists have shown that if a massive planet orbited at a distance of 3.1 to 4.0 astronomical units, it would destabilize the orbit of Mercury, and from 2.0 to 2.7 astronomical units – also Mars.
Massive Saturn and Jupiter would have suffered little, but Uranus and Neptune, located behind them, would also have “flew” from their orbits and eventually ended up thrown out of the solar system.
Worse, the same fate would have awaited the planets of the inner regions, from Mercury to Mars, including the Earth.
Such a picture makes us look at the giant Jupiter with even greater respect. It is already known what an important role this planet plays in the history of life on Earth.
Due to its powerful gravity, Jupiter intercepts most of the comets and asteroids, protecting the inner solar system from too intense bombardment. But it seems that his influence on us is not limited to this.
It is believed that it was the attraction of the huge Jupiter that destabilized the processes that took place in orbit between it and Mars.
He absorbed the lion’s share of the substance there and did not allow another planet to appear, which, as it turned out, could cause real chaos in the entire solar system.
As a result, very little matter remained in the asteroid belt (hundredths of a percent of the mass of the Earth), but the orbit of our planet was stable, and soon life arose on it.
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