Are We Weird? Why Terrestrial Planets Shouldn’t Exist As We Know It

Our solar system is perfectly designed. On the inside closest to our star, we have 4 rocky planets followed by an asteroid belt that separates us from the 4 gas/ice giants that extend out to the edge of our solar system.

We’ve grown used to our solar system; we know it well, and apart from the inexplicable existence of life here on Earth, we’ve always considered ourselves pretty ‘normal’. Over the last decade, scientists have been exploring exoplanets in some detail and the question of whether or not we are indeed normal has never been so hotly discussed. Is it common to find dry rocky Mars-like planets and giant gas Jupiters everywhere we look?

Well new research from the University of Maryland and the Tokyo Institute of Technology seem to suggest that we are in fact, very weird…

“Our results indicate that, unless the dynamical instability among giant planets is either absent or quiet like planet-planet collisions, most test particles within the orbits of giant planets at a few AU may be gone.”

This short snippet of the paper’s abstract says that ‘test particles’ (rocky planets like our own) would not exist inside the orbit of giant planets. This is because giant planets take some time to stabalise their orbits; thus, in the early stages of a solar system’s development, unstable giants would cause little planets like ours to be kicked out their orbit.

So why are we still here?

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Jack is the content manager of planetsedu.com and is a keen amateur journalist. After completing a degree in astronomy from Newcastle University, Jack went on to develop this website out of his passion for space.