"Jupiter matters. In fact, Jupiter is the hero of this story."

Gas giants keep solar systems stable


Mon, May 4th, 2015 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

Although our solar system went from being the centre of the universe to something on the verge of average, it turns out that it is a little bit more special than previously assumed. Only 15% of planetary systems in our galaxy appear to have a Neptune-sized planet, which with its significant size, prevents orbital migration.

If super-Earths are invaders, then Jupiter is our guardian protector. We think that Jupiter started off as a rocky or icy planet a few times more massive than Earth. It was able to gravitationally attract a huge amount of gas from the disk and become a giant. Another way to think of this is that Jupiter may have started out as a migrating super-Earth, but when it became a gas giant it slowed down. It had enough gravity to carve a ring-shaped gap in the protoplanetary disk, which slowed its migration. From that point on, any super-Earths trying to invade the inner solar system had to migrate past Jupiter. But Jupiter’s huge gravity—and the gap that it carved in the protoplanetary disk—acted as a migration barrier, protecting the slower-growing rocky planets. In this sense, Uranus and Neptune—and even Saturn’s core—represent would-be invaders that were held back by Jupiter, our gas-giant bodyguard.



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