Gas giants in a solar system make it easier for other planets to support life, according to a calculation by astronomers at the University of Chicago.

Thousands of exoplanets orbiting other stars have been discovered in recent years, and there are estimated to be millions of them similar to Earth. But knowing how many of them support life is one of the great mysteries of astronomy.

Researchers at the University of Chicago in Illinois (USA) created a computer model of more than 147,000 simulated planetary systems that allowed them to calculate what planetary configurations could be. more favorable for the emergence of living organisms. According to the model, the existence of pairs of gas giants such as Saturn and Jupiter in our solar system significantly improves the conditions for the development of life.

ultravivable solar systems

Many of the calculated solar systems did not support life at all because they did not contain a single Earth-like planet in the so-called habitable zone, the zone where the planet can hold liquid water without immediately evaporating into space due to the cold. or heat. However, some of the simulations also produced “ultra-habitable” scenarios, in which living conditions would be even better than in our solar system.

In the simulation, the researchers used a relatively simple model in which each system had a sun and two gas giants that were between 0.1 and 10 times the size of Jupiter. Then the team calculated whether an Earth-like planet would survive in this system or if catastrophe such as being swallowed by the central star or colliding with one of the gas giants would occur. These simulations were run five billion times.

In the end, the system calculated the probability that there was life in each solar system. A value of 0 meant there was no chance, and a value of 1 meant that there could be a second Earth that harbored life. About 60% of the systems were completely hostile to life, given a value of 0. Another eight configurations with two gas giant planets were given a value between 0 and 0.93. However, there were also 253 systems whose “livability index” was greater than 1.

The absolutely most habitable system calculated was one with relatively low-mass giant planets, one-tenth the mass of Jupiter, that were relatively far from the star and had nearly circular orbits. If we ever have to escape Earth, these are the solar systems to look out for.


Relative habitability of exoplanet systems with two giant planets


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