If Jupiter's Orbit got Weirder, it Would Actually Make Earth More Habitable

Io Eclipse on Jupiter from Juno Perijove 22 - NASA/JPL/Kevin Gill

Earth is not just habitable, it’s unusually habitable. It’s rather wet for a planet so close to its Sun, it’s geologically active, and it has a stable orbit, all of which are necessary for life as we know it. But there are also secondary advantages, such as not being constantly bombarded by large asteroids, and having a rotational axis that is fairly stable. This is due in part thanks to the planet Jupiter. The giant planet has helped clear the solar system of asteroid debris and may have helped stabilize the orbits of the inner planets. So life is good. But a new study shows that if Jupiter had a different orbit, life could be even better.

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Mini-Neptunes can Lose gas and Turn Into Super-Earths

An artist's illustration of the mini-Neptune TOI 560.01 losing its atmosphere and transitioning to a super-Earth. Image Credit: Image Credit: Adam Makarenko (Keck Observatory)

Can one type of planet become another? Can a mini-Neptune lose its atmosphere and become a super-Earth? Astronomers have found two examples of mini-Neptunes transitioning to super-Earths, and the discovery might help explain a noted “gap” in the size distribution of exoplanets.

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Exoplanetary System Found With 6 Worlds in Orbital Resonance

This artist’s impression shows the view from the planet in the TOI-178 system found orbiting furthest from the star. New research by Adrien Leleu and his colleagues with several telescopes, including ESO’s Very Large Telescope, has revealed that the system boasts six exoplanets and that all but the one closest to the star are locked in a rare rhythm as they move in their orbits. Image Credit: ESO/L. Calçada/spaceengine.org

200 light-years away from Earth, there’s a K-type main-sequence star named TOI (TESS Object of Interest) 178. When Adrian Leleu, an astrophysicist at the Center for Space and Habitability of the University of Bern, observed it, it appeared to have two planets orbiting it at roughly the same distance. But that turned out to be incorrect. In fact, six exoplanets orbit the smallish star.

And five of those six are locked into an unexpected orbital configuration.

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