NASA image of Jupiter

Could the reason life on Earth exists be… Jupiter?

Contributed by
Aug 22, 2018

The cosmic entity we could be thanking for our existence is a gaseous monster with enough gravity to flatten a human being.

There is something odd about Jupiter. Most gas giants floating out there orbit relatively close to their stars, but the terrestrial planets in our solar system (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars), which are composed of heavy metals, venture closer to the sun while the gas giants are rebels and keep their distance. This explains why the average temperature on Jupiter is -234 degrees Fahrenheit, so even if its crushing gravity didn’t turn you into a space pancake, you’d still end up as a space popsicle.

Why does our solar system have to be the nonconformist? Those who refuse to follow the crowd are cool in real life, but objects in space that deviate from the norm frustrate scientists. Some theorize that this started billions of years ago, when the solar system was still unsure about what it was going to turn into. Jupiter kind of went rogue when it was a hot young planet. As planets close to our star that would eventually become “super-Earths” formed and evolved, the gas giant began to move toward the sun in a phenomenon known as the Grand Tack.

As Jupiter continued to trespass on these planets’ territory, its disruptive gravitational forces caused their orbits to overlap and led to the inevitable collisions you could imagine would happen in such a scenario. Hunks of shattered planets were flung toward the sun or out into space.

Jupiter was finally pulled back toward permanent orbit just as Saturn began coming into being, which gave those planetary remnants breathing room to evolve into the planets we now know as Mercury, Venus, Mars, and our own.

This could explain why the terrestrial planets in our solar system are misfits compared to those in other star systems within our galaxy—but wait. There’s more.

Jupiter knocking planets around could also shed light on not just how Earth was created, but how it eventually became flooded with life-giving water. As it retreated from the wreckage, Jupiter’s gravity grabbed asteroids beyond the snow line, which were far enough from the sun for ice to condense, and flung them at the still-forming Earth. Scientists (again, theoretically) believe the ice from these asteroids melted into Earth’s oceans and made it possible for us and everything else that lives on this planet to stay alive.

While this is all speculative, Jupiter personified would probably be something like The Hulk, who is also a simultaneously destructive and heroic force, so it does make sense. At least Jupiter doesn’t go into smash mode anymore.

(via Seeker)

Make Your Inbox Important

Like Comic-Con. Except every week in your inbox.

Sign-up breaker