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Gas Giants on Eccentric Orbits: ‘Wrecking Balls’ for the Inner System?

6 Nov 2019, 17:36 UTC
Gas Giants on Eccentric Orbits: ‘Wrecking Balls’ for the Inner System? W. M. Keck Observatory/Adam Makarenko.

We often think of Jupiter as a mitigating influence on asteroid or comet strikes in the inner system, its gravity changing the trajectories of potential impactors. That would make gas giants a powerful determinant of the survivability of Earth analogues, at least in terms of habitability. While we continue to investigate the question, it’s interesting to consider the damage a gas giant on an elliptical orbit might do to habitable zone planets. Stephen Kane (UC-Riverside), working with Caltech astronomer Sarah Blunt, decided to find out what would happen if, in their modeling, they introduced an elliptical gas giant into the system of an Earth twin.

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