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The Jupiter Effect

March 24, 2015

The planet Jupiter may be responsible for Earth’s mild climate.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

NASA JPL

The planets and dwarf planet Pluto are shown in their correct order of distance from the sun, their correct relative sizes and their correct relative orbital distances. (NASA/JPL)

How Jupiter re-shaped our solar system. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Billions of years ago, our solar system looked very different, with large rocky planets forming very close to the sun. But in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Caltech planetary scientist Konstantin Batygin writes that Jupiter was detoured into the inner solar system, and knocked everything off kilter.

Konstantin Batygin (California Institute of Technology):

As it turns out, Jupiter had not just an effect, it was the dominant sculptor, so to speak, of our solar system during the early stages of its formation.

HIRSHON:

Before heading out to the distant orbit it occupies today, Jupiter caused Earth and the other inner planets to be smaller, further from the Sun, and with thinner atmospheres than similar planets in other solar systems. So life as we know it would have been impossible without the changes wrought by Jupiter’s side-trip through our neighborhood. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.