Scientists believe that Jupiter may be the reason Venus can’t have nice things. Researchers believe that if not for Jupiter, Venus might be habitable today. A new study has highlighted the destabilizing effect of the gas giant planet. If Jupiter hadn’t altered its orbit around the sun, Venus might not be the scorching and waterless hellscape that the planet is today.
Jupiter is a massive planet two and a half times the mass of all the other planets in the solar system combined. Early in Jupiter’s formation, it moved closer to and then away from the sun due to interactions with the disk that the planets formed in as well as the other giant planets in our solar system. The movement of Jupiter affected Venus.
Observations researchers conducted in other planetary systems show that similar giant planet migrations soon after formation are likely common. Scientists consider planets that lack liquid water to be incapable of hosting life as we know it. Researchers believe Venus may have lost some water early on for other reasons. Still, Jupiter’s movement likely set Venus onto a path to turn it into the inhospitable planet we know today.
Astrobiologist Stephen Kane says that one interesting thing about Venus today is that its orbit is nearly circular. One of the things he wanted to explore in this study was if the planet always had a circular orbit and, if not, what were the implications of its orbit. To answer that question, he modeled the early solar system calculating the location of all the planets at any one time and how they pull each other in different directions.
Looking at the eccentricity of an orbit, which is a number between zero and one with zero being completely circular and one not circular it all. The orbit of Venus, as it is now measured, is 0.006, the most circular of any planet in the solar system. Cain’s model shows that when Jupiter was closer to the sun about a billion years ago, Venus likely had an eccentricity of 0.3. There would’ve been a much higher probability that was habitable at that time.