Our Solar System is weird. And not only because of the existence of this blue planet full of living things, but also because of the lack of gas giants like Jupiter at close distances to the Sun.
Over the last few decades, scientists have discovered and confirmed more than 1,000 exoplanets, planets, orbiting other stars. But these star systems are quite different from the solar system – their large planets orbit their stars as close as Mercury orbits the Sun.
Such exoplanets, called “hot Jupiters,” are quite common in other star systems, but strangely, they have disappeared from our.
But why is our Jupiter behaving so differently?
Scientists do not know why, but they make hypotheses. One is that the original planets in the inner solar system were destroyed by the migrating Jupiter. And then, the formation of Saturn triggers a gravitational interaction that draws Jupiter back into its current orbit. Another hypothesis states that there was once a fifth giant, besides the present Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. But Jupiter was able to win the gravitational battle with the powerful pull of the Sun and throw it out of its zone of influence. Thus the inner part of the Solar System is cleared to form rocky planets such as Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. This explains why the inner planets are younger than the outer gas giants.
So if it is not Jupiter there will be no inner planets, and so do we.
In addition, our gentle giant acts as a vacuum cleaner for potentially dangerous space bodies such as comets. It protects the planet and it has been repeatedly observed over the last decade that Jupiter itself has been hit by at least five comets or asteroids. One of the latest photos from March 17, 2016 shows that Jupiter was hit by a small object. And those hits aren’t the only ones. Some scientists predict that these collisions are likely to occur up to five times each month.
Because of its immense gravitational force, Jupiter diverts these objects far from Earth. We must therefore be grateful to the gas giant for being undisturbed.
Check out the video discussing these and other issues.