Of all the planets in our solar system, Earth is undoubtedly the most ideal planet for life. As mentioned in an article featured on Wired, Martin Turbet of Sorbonne Unversitės in Paris remarks, “It has a magnetic field that protects us from the solar wind, an ozone layer that shields us from UV light, and it has the right amount of water on the surface for both lands and oceans to exist.”
As if that weren’t enough, we should count our blessings because a new scientific study has found that if we were just a fraction further from the Sun, our planet would be locked in a never-ending Ice Age.
In their study, Turbet and his team looked at how CO2 would react in planets that were slightly closer or further away from their host stars. What they found was that even a small adjustment further away would cause the CO2 to condense at the poles forming permanent ice caps. Without any CO2 entering the atmosphere, this would drastically alter the greenhouse effect and in turn, would fail to warm up the planet’s atmosphere.
“We found, in fact, that the Earth is just at the right distance from the Sun to be able to escape from episodes of complete glaciation, that - we know - must have occurred 2.4Gy and 700My ago,” Turbet continued.
In other words, if the Earth was moved away from the Sun by only 15%, it would be permanently frozen. Thankfully, Earth is situated in the perfect location. It isn’t too far away that its CO2 has been trapped in the ice, and yet it’s not too close that the greenhouse effect went into overdrive and the planet became too hot.
The results of this study don’t just lead us to feelings of luck and relief. From this study, scientists are learning how to better analyze exoplanets. With the help of the Kepler Space Telescope, scientists discovered what is known as the Trappist system, a remarkable collection of seven Earth-like planets all orbiting a single star, similar to our own solar system.
What makes the discovery all the more impressive is that not only is the system just 40 light years away from Earth but that three of the planets discovered are within what we would call the ‘habitable zone’. It’s all pretty mind-boggling. However, every day NASA is taking on the challenge of finding and exploring new exoplanets. Could a visit to a new life-bearing planet be in our future? Only time will tell.
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