What If Our Earth Orbit Jupiter Could it Survive?

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The largest planet in the solar system and second most massive object after the sun, is Jupiter. It boasts at least seventynine moonsand the four largest of these, the Galilean moons, would all class as small planets themselves if they were orbiting the sun instead. So, does that mean that something like our own planet could ever become a Jovian moon, too?

Jupiters moons are large, none are larger than Earth. The largest, Ganymede (which is also the largest moon in the solar system full stop), is, though, bigger than the innermost planet, Mercuryso we already know that Jupiter can play host to planetsized objects in general. In the layout of our particular star system, much depends on the distance an object is from all other objects that could exert a gravitational influence over it and balancing that with how far out that object is from the sun. So, size is important, but it isnt make-or-breakin terms of what can orbit what. We see across the universe that objects of essentially any size can safely orbit each otherwhether its the dwarf planet Pluto which has at least five, tiny moons, or the two massive central expanses in a binary black hole system. Physically speaking, Earth could, at the right distance, under the right conditions, orbit Jupiterbut it would mean major upheaval in the solar system. But

about orbiting Jupiter and retaining life?

Its nowhere near as simple. Despite its impressive size, Ganymede is still very unlike Earth, and one reason why is that it has such an incredibly weak atmosphere. A handful of Jovian moons at present do boastan atmosphere of some sort, but most dont. And of those that do, none are even closeto Earths. We see in other planets like Venus, whichis clogged with CO2, just how important atmospheric conditions areAnd we know that life can only exist on Earth because its own atmosphere is just right. So, were Earth to orbit Jupiter and still host life, it would have to somehow keep hold of its lifeenabling atmosphere, too.

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The nearest match in terms ofJovian moons with the potential for lifeis thought to be Europa but even it has a very thin atmosphere. Europa, though, is still often touted as mankindsbest bet for a second home anywhere in the solar system, or even as a potential source of alien lifewith various claims that extraterrestrial somethings could be thriving in its subsurface oceans. Its the predicted presence of liquid water thats key, here, suggesting that parts of Europa must be reasonably temperate; not too cold to freeze all the water, nor too hot to evaporate it. And, in an alternate world where Earth did orbit Jupiter, if life were to stand any chance at all of surviving then this would be another of the most important requirements to make it happen. We know that Earth, as it is, resides in thehabitable zoneof the solar system, at j ust

the right distance away from the sun for water and life.

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But, if there are subsurface oceans on Europa, then theres something else at play, another means to retain warmth, with most explanations leaning toward tidal flexing. Presumed to be whats happening on some icy moons like Europa (as well as on Saturns Titan), tidal flexing is when a big enough planets strong enough gravity creates the motion of the tides on its moon. That motion then creates heat through friction which, in the case of Europa, ensures that subsurface oceans stay liquid. Jupiter does also emit a certain amount of heat of its own, but nothing even closely comparable to the sun.

So, tidal flexing could be key to how Europa works, and if Earth were to wind up in a similar positionit would be crucial for its survival, too. With or without tidal flexing, though, the change in distance from the sun would certainly cause turmoil in how our planet fundamentally works. Rather than trying to curb global warming, for example, orbiting Jupiter would mean wed be desperately trying to increase it totop up on heat by any means necessary. Not that humans arent capable of living in freezing environments. One of the coldest continually inhabited placeson Earth is the village of Oymyakon in rural Russia, where winter temperatures have been known to plummet to minusninety degrees Fahrenheit. By contrast, Europas oceans are warmer, or else they wouldnt exist. Io, another of Jupiters moons, a volcanic one, is also known to be hotteralthough the tradeoff is that Io is also noted for producing high volumes of deadly sulfur. Were Earth to suddenly orbit Jupiter, then, wed have to find a way of making heat without risking the air we breathe; a difficult, potentially impossible task. All while finding a way of maintaining an atmosphere thick enough to protect against radiation, including increased radiation from Jupiter, too. And there arent many solar system objectsat all with an atmosphere thick enough for that. And so, were back to the problem ofatmosphere”. Because, even were the sun and planets torealign so that it was physically possible for Earth to orbit Jupiter, would it still resemble Earth if it did so? More than likely not, but that doesnt meanthat there arent some moonsout therewhich could still be Earthlike. For most astrophysicists, because moons areso common in our own star system, the existence of exomoons (moons around exoplanets in otherstar systems) is generally a giveneven if it is debatable whether weve actually observed one yet. The problem in studying them is that exomoonsare generally too small, or too far away, or too complex for us to identify with confidencebut it is at least plausible that somewhere out there in the universe theres a gas giant (like Jupiter) with a rocky moon (like Earth would be), at just the right distance from its star, holding alien life. Much as life on Earth relies on the current balance of this solar system, it would all depend on that exomoon existing in life-enablingequilibrium with everything else around it. For the same thing to happen to a hypotheticalEarth around Jupiter, well, the chances arent great at all. Yes, its physically possible that an object the size of Earth could orbit around an object the size of Jupiterbut the fundamental makeup of a Jupiterorbiting Earth would almost certainly be totally different. And the question of how Earth would get toits new location (what would send it on its way? And could it ever hope to survive such a journey?)is one for another video. Perhaps in a faroff future, wed even have tech advanced enough to purposefully move planets into whatever position suits us bestto the point where, in some kind of Kaddishes

Type Five society, the question wouldntbeCould Earth orbit Jupiter?”

, butRemember when it did?”. For now, the prospect of something the size of Earth around Jupiter is something which could happen. The likelihood of it happening and Earth still retaining life, though, is incredibly small. Between here and there, this world would simply have to go through too many changes. So, we should thank our lucky stars that werenot Jupiter bound, just yet

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