Sept. 25, 2022
Feature Story

How Planetary Orbits, in Our Solar System and Beyond, Can Affect Habitability

Researchers supported by NASA have revealed new details about how the orbits of planets in a system effect one another, and the role these orbits play in the potential for rocky planets to support life. Most planets have eccentric orbits, meaning they are oval-shaped rather than perfectly circular. This means that the amount of heat the planet receives from its host star varies depending on where the planet is on its orbital path.

The new study, published in the Astronomical Journal, looks at how the degree of eccentricity in one planet’s orbit can affect the habitability of other planets in the system. For instance, the model shows that if Jupiter’s orbiter around the Sun was more eccentric, Earth might be even more capable of supporting a vibrant biosphere than it is today.

The study was recently featured in a post from Many Worlds, available at:

The Many Worlds Blog chronicles the search for evidence of life beyond Earth written by author/journalist Marc Kaufman. The “Many Worlds” column is supported by the Lunar Planetary Institute/USRA and informed by NASA’s NExSS initiative, a research coordination network supported by the NASA Astrobiology Program. Any opinions expressed are the author’s alone.