'Super-Earth' Could Wipe Out Life on Earth | INQUIRER.net USA

Hypothetical ‘Super-Earth’ Could Wipe Out Life on Our Planet

/ 08:53 AM March 09, 2023

What if there were another planet larger than the Earth between Mars and Jupiter? It could wipe out life on our planet, according to a University of California Riverside (UCR) expert.

Astrophysicist Stephen Kane tested the thought experiment and found that it would throw Jupiter out of orbit and destabilize nearby planets.

Specifically, the hypothetical planet would shift the Earth’s orbit, making it harder for any life form to survive. Good thing this ‘super-Earth’ is not real!

What is the purpose of the ‘super-Earth’ experiment?

It may seem bleak to think about a hypothetical planet destroying humanity, but that wasn’t Kane’s intention. 

He started the thought experiment when he noticed a massive gap between the Earth and Neptune.

The Earth is a terrestrial planet, and Neptune is an ice giant. Other solar systems have similar planets, but they always have super-Earths in between.


Super-Earths are planets that are larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune. Moreover, they are the most common type of planet in the Milky Way galaxy.

What would happen if there was a super-Earth between Mars and Jupiter? Kane tested the idea by running computer simulations. 

He discovered that if such a planet was in our solar system, it would destabilize nearby planets. 


“This fictional planet gives a nudge to Jupiter that is just enough to destabilize everything else,” Kane stated in a press release. 

“Although Jupiter and Saturn experience relatively small orbital perturbations,” Kane wrote in the study.

“The angular momentum transferred to the ice giants can result in their ejection from the system at key resonance locations of the additional planet,” he added.

As a result, the Earth will become inhabitable for any lifeform. Worse, a super-Earth seven times larger than our planet may nudge it out of our solar system.

The UCR astrophysicist wrote, “the orbits of Venus and Earth become more eccentric, leading to catastrophic close encounters” between the planet.

“Consequently, both Venus and Earth are removed from the system during the time period 8–9 [million years] after the commencement of the simulation,” Kane added.

Again, remember that the super-Earth is hypothetical. This experiment allowed experts to realize an intricate balance of numerous factors allows us to exist on our planet.

“Our solar system is more finely tuned than I appreciated before,” Kane concluded in the press release. “It all works like intricate clock gears. Throw more gears into the mix, and it all breaks.”

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TAGS: space exploration
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