The largest planet in our solar system just might be the most important celestial body in the sun’s family. And this is not just because of the overwhelming size complex that it gives to other planets. In fact, if a few alleged ‘leaked’ NASA documents are to be believed, Jupiter could sustain earth’s life even if the sun were to be removed from the dark canvas. So what makes Jupiter so special to present and future life on earth? The answer is certainly not as dubious as the pristine, untouched core of the gas giant. Let’s explore.
Influence beyond the frost line
Jupiter wields tremendous influence on every event that transpires in our solar system beyond the frost line. Its influence in the outer solar system is so powerful that it virtually protects the inner planets (earth included) from all dangers that arrive from outside the solar system. More on this in a minute.
Oort cloud management
The oort cloud is cardinal asteroid belt in the solar system. This is precisely the place from where one of the asteroids veered towards the earth and erased the dinosaurs. That happened millions of years ago. Presently, the oort cloud does not cause any trouble to the earth. But that does not mean that the asteroids have gone silent. The most recent example of this is the Shoemaker-Levy 9.
The Shoemaker-Levy 9 is one chilling reminder of the role the largest planet in our solar system plays in securing life on the earth. Not very long back in history, a series of asteroids dissolved into the immense atmosphere near the base of Jupiter. The world watched in horror as the asteroids left spots on the Jupiter. Each of these ‘spots’ were the size of the earth.
Many scientists believe that the asteroids were actually headed towards the inner solar system. The immense gravity of Jupiter pulled these asteroids towards its own atmosphere and perhaps saved the mass extinction of all life forms on the earth.
A counter to the sun’s immense gravity
Given the immense gravity of the sun, it does not just attract the planets towards itself. In fact, it attracts several other celestial bodies (mostly asteroids) towards its own core. While the asteroids are headed towards the sun, they have to pass Jupiter in the way. The Shoemaker-Levy 9 was just one such impact that we all saw the telescopes capture in broad daylight.
The whirlwind effect
Most outer celestial bodies that pass through the solar system are subjected to the whirlwind effect of Jupiter. Unlike the earth, the Jupiter has a very fast spin. The fast spin of the planet combined with its immense gravity and dense atmosphere, conjure an effect described as the whirlwind effect.
Through the whirlwind effect, most asteroids that pass the planet lose their path and are picked up by the planets spin much like small cars caught in the labyrinth of giant tornadoes. The effect has enabled the planet to balloon off several potential threats to life on earth.